ESN: PAC “extremely concerned” by delays

Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has written to Sir Philip Rutnam, the Home Office’s permanent secretary, following the recent PAC hearing on the progress of the Emergency Services Network (ESN) project on 21 February.

In the letter, dated 14 March, Hillier said: “The Committee [is] extremely concerned that the ESN programme has been delayed by a further six months. Since our first evidence session on this subject, in November 2016, the programme has gone from being ‘slightly delayed’ to now being a minimum of 15 months behind schedule. It is clear that from the start, the Department was complacent about the risks involved in the programme. Given the longstanding concerns, the high-level strategic review of the programme and extensive re-planning exercise you are carrying out are vital but long overdue. Until these exercises are completed and a timetable for delivery is finalised it is difficult to gauge whether the developments outlined in your letter constitute real progress or not.”

Hillier also said that it was “encouraging to hear that an agreement seems to have been reached between Motorola and Vodafone to ensure Airwave can continue in service.”

She added that the Home Office’s consideration of different delivery models for ESN that would allow its capabilities to be rolled out incrementally “will involve a substantial amount of work with suppliers and emergency services and amounts to a reset of the entire approach for delivering the ESN programme”.

In related news, ESMCP recently (8 March) launched an Invitation to Tender (ITT) for a contract worth an estimated £7.5 million (excluding VAT) for the supply of an independent testing and reporting capability to initially assess EE’s commercial 4G coverage followed by ESN.

The ITT states that the solution must use a coverage app to be provided by the supplier, which will be installed onto devices operating on either network (as required), to allow autonomous, unattended coverage testing using the data collected by the app. The supplier will also be required to provide drive test and walk test services for both networks, together with a helpdesk to support the solution and a training service.