Proof: Sir Philip’s IT spending review based on false figures

Sir Philip Green’s review of Government IT spending was based on false comparisons, an exclusive PC Pro investigation has revealed.

Proof: Sir Philip's IT spending review based on false figures

After a 10-month battle to force the Government to hand over the necessary data, the Cabinet Office has finally admitted that Sir Philip’s claim that the Government was wasting millions of pounds on laptop computers was unjust.

You will note the laptop computers do not convey an accurate like for like hardware comparison

Sir Philip’s Efficiency Review (PDF) – originally published last October – claimed that some Government departments were wasting money by spending up to £2,000 on new laptops, while other departments managed to source laptops for as little £353. However, the high-street retailer’s report failed to declare the precise models involved, making it impossible to tell if he was making a fair comparison.

The Cabinet Office told PC Pro at the time that “where possible, Sir Philip has used examples that are like for like. Where that is not possible, he compared comparable products”. Documents now sent to us prove that wasn’t true.

False comparison

Last month, the Information Commissioner’s Office found the Cabinet Office guilty of breaking the Freedom of Information Act, for repeatedly refusing to disclose the precise models involved to PC Pro.

Having finally been forced to hand over the relevant data, it’s now clear Sir Philip was comparing vastly different models. The £2,000 laptop cited was in fact a Fujitsu Lifebook P770, which included a Core i7 processor, 4GB of RAM, a DVD writer and various security add-ons, such as a fingerprint reader and TPM module. The Government admits the actual hardware only cost £1,355, with the extra £645 made up from the cost of providing support and printing services for the laptop.

The £353 model was also a Fujitsu laptop, a Lifebook PH530, but it was equipped with a lesser Core i3 processor, only 2GB of RAM and none of the advanced security features available on the £2,000 model, and didn’t include any service costs. It’s therefore entirely possible that the two laptops were bought for different purposes, and didn’t necessarily represent the waste of money that Sir Philip claimed.

In his letter to PC Pro, the Cabinet Office’s chief procurement officer admits Sir Philips figures were inaccurate. “You will note the laptop computers do not convey an accurate like for like hardware comparison,” John Collington writes. “The figures quoted in the review were not based on just the hardware specifications but also their specific configurations (e.g. security configurations) and other services provided (e.g. desk-side support, printing capability etc).”

“The reason for this is because costs quoted were obtained from ICT Services contracts that are commonly used across Government today,” he admitted.

“Illustrative indication”

Nevertheless, the Cabinet Office continues to defend Sir Philip’s findings. “Sir Philip Green’s review did give an illustrative indication of the differences derived from Government ICT contracts, which we are now addressing through better and consolidated contract management and through the Desktop/Devices Strategy for Government which aims to bring greater standardisation and cost reduction.”

The flawed laptop data will raise doubts over the validity of Sir Philip’s entire report, which not only covered IT equipment, but other areas of Government procurement such as mobile phones, office equipment and travel expenses. The report was praised by the Prime Minister for highlighting the “crazy decisions” made on Government IT spending.

PC Pro also requested data on a comparison of printer cartridges, which Sir Philip claimed cost one department £86 and another department £398. The Cabinet Office insists both were HP LJ5500 cartridges.

The full text of the Cabinet Office’s response, including a full breakdown of the specification of the laptops compared, is shown below:

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