Urgent improvements in the Scottish Government’s record keeping on national policies such as the National Concessionary Travel scheme, were called for by the Public Audit Committee in a report published today.
In its report on National Concessionary Travel, the committee expressed concern that Transport Scotland held no documentation explaining how the original cost estimate of £9 million for implementing the electronic ticketing machine technology across Scotland had been calculated. Transport Scotland has been responsible for the scheme that provides free bus travel across Scotland on eligible services for older and disabled people since 2006.
The committee learned that the costs had risen from £9 million in 2004 to £42 million by the time the technology was fully implemented in December 2010. This was also 4 years later than planned as the technology had not been used before and there was insufficient specialist knowledge of the technology within the Scottish Government.
Committee convener Hugh Henry MSP said:
“While we recognise the benefits of the national concessionary scheme, the committee was extremely concerned to learn that lack of documentation resulted in Transport Scotland being unable to understand how the initial technology estimates of £9 million were calculated. This situation was exacerbated when responsibility was moved from the Transport department to Transport Scotland in 2006 and a lack of staff continuity meant that Transport Scotland lost an opportunity to understand these costs.
“We also heard there was insufficient specialist knowledge among Scottish Executive staff to be able to accurately estimate the costs, the delivery timescales and risks of the electronic ticketing machine technology. Consequently, this technology was fully implemented 4 years later than planned, during which time the scheme was open to increased risk of fraud and consultant costs also increased.
“We have called on the Scottish Government to ensure that realistic timescales and appropriately skilled staff are in place to manage the development of such systems effectively in future.”
The committee report made further recommendations including:
- Transport Scotland considers undertaking research into operator costs in order to reassure itself costs cannot be driven down further and that the reimbursement rate remains appropriate;
- The Scottish Government updates it on how it proposes to manage demand and any increases in the cost of the scheme going forward, given current financial restraints;
- Transport Scotland reviews its internal procedures for identifying and eliminating fraud to determine whether more diverse methods for detecting fraud should be implemented.
The National Concessionary Travel scheme was introduced in 2006 to provide free bus travel across Scotland on eligible services for older and disabled people. The national scheme is based on and replaced 16 previous concessionary schemes operated by local authorities and standardised concessionary travel across Scotland. In 2009-10, the NCT scheme cost over £199 million.
Responsibility for introducing and running the NCT scheme transferred from the Scottish Executive Transport Directorate to Transport Scotland in January 2006.
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