back to article MPs slam UK's £22bn Test and Trace programme for failing to provide evidence that it slows COVID pandemic

The UK's eye-wateringly expensive Test and Trace system has failed to provide any data showing it is effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19, according to a damning report from MPs. The influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC), a spending watchdog made up of MPs from across the political spectrum, pointed out that …

  1. s. pam
    Holmes

    Sadly, it was so clear...

    To see imminent and epic failure Cumming from a mile away on this.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Sadly, it was so clear...

      Maybe they should've gone for a drive to check their eyesight?

  2. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    22 billion

    For a shit version of Pokemon Go

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 22 billion

      So about $30 billion US dollars..... about one and half times Apple's annual R&D costs.

      They could have designed their own phone with that money, let alone a fooking app.

      1. Red Ted Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: 22 billion

        From the "demotivational" posters:

        Consultancy: If you're not part of the solution, there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem.

        I think that about sums it up!

    2. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: 22 billion

      All this makes me shudder in horror when I wonder who will be picked to cock up the "Digital Vaccine Passport" database when it is inevitably tendered for..

      1. Jc (the real one)

        Re: 22 billion

        Tendered? Such an archaic concept

        Jc

      2. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: 22 billion

        Fancy name for a spreadsheet

        1. johnmayo

          Re: 22 billion

          ... an Excel97 one at that!

  3. hopkinse

    NHS Test & Trace??

    As far as I'm aware, it's nothing to do with the NHS as such, was outsourced to everyone's favourite, Serco.

    1. Andre Carneiro

      Re: NHS Test & Trace??

      It’s all about branding...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: NHS Test & Trace??

        You can't criticize "NHS" Digital cos that's attacking nurses and Cpt Tom and probably fluffy bunnies

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: NHS Test & Trace??

          "cos that's attacking nurses"

          And that's the government's job, financially speaking.

    2. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

      Re: NHS Test & Trace??

      That's incorrect.

      The vast, vast majority of the money didn't go to SERCO, it went on testing.

      Serco were involved in the "trace" part, because you obviously don't want doctors and nurses going to people's houses and knocking on doors.

      See the fullfact link I've posted elsewhere in this article for more information.

      The whole "T&T is a multibillion pound outsourcing disaster" is misinformation at best.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: NHS Test & Trace??

        Edited for you

        "T&T is a multibillion pound project that repeatedly missed targets, has failed in key areas and show's that government's obsession with consultants and monolithic central approaches is ineffective at best, corrupt at worst'

    3. This Side Up

      Re: NHS Test & Trace??

      Type your comment here — advanced HTML and hotlinks allowed

      If it goes badly blame it on someone else; if it goes well take the credit.

      So it's "NHS Test & Trace" and "Government Vaccination Programme" (complete with Minister who does nothing as far as I can see).. Of course it should be Dido Harding Test & Trace" and "NHS Vaccination Programme".

  4. Andre Carneiro

    Queen of Carnage

    It’s just absolutely astounding!

    She really does have the reverse Midas touch!

    Has she actually ever managed not to fuck up at great scale?

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Queen of Carnage

      The excellent Private Eye did a piece after she was appointed detailing all the jobs she'd had and how long she'd stayed in them etc. It was a great read.

      1. johnmayo
        FAIL

        Re: Queen of Carnage

        A-Harding-reigns-gonna-fall:-

        https://twnews.co.uk/gb-news/from-news-a-harding-reigns-gonna-fall

        1995: After a stint as a trainee management consultant at McKinsey, 27-year-old Dido gets her first proper job: marketing director, no less, at Thomas Cook. “Thomas Cook spends a long time contemplating its navel,” an exec from a rival firm tells Marketing Week. “It is in character for it to recruit a consultant rather than a doer.” Harding takes the criticism in her stride: “It is common for consultants to be thought of as eggheads who don’t know what they’re doing. I want to prove I can do things before the label sticks.”

        1997: Interviewed by Travel Trade Gazette, Harding makes a virtue of her ignorance. “I am not ashamed to say I do not know the travel industry as well as my colleagues. But in a team I think I bring a new perspective.”

        1998: When she was hired, Thomas Cook said Harding would “look at the future for the business in five to 10 years’ time”. But after four years she is off, moving to employment services group Manpower as “senior vice-president, strategic marketing Europe”.

        1999: Time for another change of horses: Harding becomes commercial director of struggling retail group Woolworths.

        2000: After less than a year she gallops off to join Tesco as “commercial director for value added foods”.

        2004: She is now Tesco’s “international support director”, responsible for its overseas ventures. In 2003, Dido told the Guardian that she hopes “still to be with Tesco in five years’ time”. So, inevitably…

        2007: Dido deserts Tesco for arch-rivals Sainsbury: after an obligatory few months of gardening leave, in March 2008 she starts work as head of Sainsbury convenience stores. But not for long.

        2009: In December, Harding announces she will join TalkTalk as chief executive in March 2010.

        2011: TalkTalk incurs a £3m fine from Ofcom for sending thousands of customers inaccurate bills. The firm has to shell out a further £2.5m in refunds. During her time at TalkTalk she twice wins the Daily Mail’s wooden spoon award for providing “the worst customer service in the UK”.

        2014: Dido’s old university chum David Cameron gives her a seat in parliament as a Tory peer.

        2015: Cyber-criminals access the financial and personal details of more than 150,000 TalkTalk customers. Asked if the data was encrypted or not, chief executive Baroness Harding sighs: “The awful truth is that I don’t know.” Almost 100,000 customers leave TalkTalk and profits are halved.

        2017: Harding leaves TalkTalk to try her hand at “public service activities”. She becomes chair of NHS Improvement, responsible for overseeing all NHS hospitals, but tells MPs on the health select committee: “I have not worked in health and social care and would be the first to admit I have a lot to learn about the sector.” She also airily rejected the MPs’ call to resign the Tory whip while holding what should be an independent post. Then along comes Covid…

        2020: Following her brief, calamitous spell as track-and-trace supremo, Lady H is to chair the new NIHP. Matt Hancock dismisses MPs’ mutterings about her lack of health credentials, assuring ITV News she has “excellent experience”. Indeed, by her previous standards three years at the NHS probably do count as a wealth of experience. With Dido on board, the NIHP can now look to the future as confidently as, say, Thomas Cook or Woolworths...

        NO HORSE SENSE…

        An incident at the Cheltenham Festival back in March suggests Dido Harding, boss of the new health protection body, has much to learn about public health.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Queen of Carnage

      You missed the point

      Her job is to funnel prodgious amounts of public money into private hands and whilst acting as a target for indignation

      Let's not forget that her HUSBAND is the chair of the government anticorruption and cronyism committee

    3. macjules Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Queen of Carnage

      Well, she did start early: "commercial director for value added foods" at Tesco 2000 to 2004 where she had to be hurriedly promoted sideways to “international support director” (a non-existent position up until then). Even at that position she was apparently asked if she wouldn't mind finding an alternative position ... preferable away from Tesco.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Queen of Carnage

        >Even at that position she was apparently asked if she wouldn't mind finding an alternative position

        Mobile Customer Driven Container redeployment coordinator (responsible for returning trolleys).

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Queen of Carnage

          So that's why trolleys end up in canals.

        2. macjules Silver badge

          Re: Queen of Carnage

          Surely "Director of Customer-driven Product Procurement Retrieval",

  5. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

    > Since one of the UK's biggest ever corporate cyber-crimes happened on her watch as TalkTalk CEO, the Queen of Carnage Baroness Dido Harding was an obvious choice to head up the NHS Test and Trace system so vital to the nation's pandemic response when it was created in May 2020.

    It's almost as if this isn't remotely relevant and is just more tedious Tory bashing from this once great website.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
      Flame

      It's almost as if this isn't remotely relevant and is just more tedious Tory bashing from this once great website.

      I think you'll find the media tend to bash the party in power because they're the one's f**king up. At the moment Labour are getting a free(ish) ride as they're not in power so can't do anything expect emit hot air.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      You seem to be under the misapprehension that there's nothing personal in this. Of course there is. It's her personal record that leads to this, hence the recursive acronym: DIDO In Disaster Out.

    3. Chris G Silver badge

      This particular bunch of Tories appear to need a bashing. They are spending spectacular amounts of money on dysfunctional programs at a time when the economy is under unique pressure. I suspect the country wouldn't fair much better if the other lot were in power but it would likely be down to genuine ineptitude rather than the Old boys/girls club.

      1. genghis_uk Silver badge

        Can you imagine the outcome if Corbyn was in power over the last year?

        He can spout on a soap box all day but was useless when faced with actually having to do something

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Can you imagine the outcome if Corbyn was in power over the last year?

          It could hardly be any worse than what we've already experienced: the worst death rate (pro rata) in the world, £22B+ spunked away on a test and trace system that doesn't work, repeatedly broken promises on testing and a "world beating" app that still doesn't exist, record national debt and the biggest budget deficits in history. hundreds of thousands of wrecked businesses and millions losing their jobs, pitiful quarantine measures for visitors that's a year too late, NHS on its arse and its workforce shafted (again), Nightingale hospitals with no patients, dodgy contracts to cronies for worthless PPE, etc.

          If that tosser Corbyn was in charge he wouldn't have wasted public money if he tried. Whenever he'd tell Diane Abbott to bung his cronies a couple of billion, that finanical genius would send them £4.23 and a used scratch card.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            NHS on its arse

            NHS was already on its arse, pandemic only exposed it. Basically, there's no slack left into any large-scale system to accommodate for 'out of ordinary' situation, because the slack has been removed due to 'cost optimisation' (don't ask me where the alleged savings have gone to).

          2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              I can't see how this is responsive to the post you're responding to. Only £127M went to Serco -- so what? The total cost for T&T is still in the tens of billions, and the PAC has again pointed out it failed to achieve its goals. Details of how the money was divided are irrelevant to any of the points in the upthread post.

        2. fajensen Silver badge

          To do worse, Corbyn would have to be creative and make an active effort. Perhaps promote his brother to run the no-bid contract for the vaccine programme?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Well we will never know will we? He might have been a disaster - or it might have made him. Crises test people and it's not always the bragging blustery 'i'm so tough they asked me not to join the SAS because I'd shame the others' walts who actually step up. On the other hand we do know hat the current lot are incapable of thinking more than one Daily Mail edition ahead of their Fortnum and Mason's hamper.

          So basically 'imagine' vs 'know'

    4. Dave K Silver badge

      Tory bashing != Incompetence bashing

      Granted they've often gone hand in hand over the past year, but this article is bashing her incompetence and obscene waste of money, not her political affiliation. Try to understand the difference here.

    5. sabroni Silver badge
      Mushroom

      £22bn (going up) on this innefectual bullshit

      but the people spending 10 hours a day watching people suffocate to death while trying to avoid catching this fucking hideous disease deserve 1%.

      Oh no, the unfair Tory bashing!

      Fuck off.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        1. Down not across Silver badge

          Re: £22bn (going up) on this innefectual bullshit

          What's that got to do with sabroni's comment on the generous NHS pay rise?

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      FFS! There's no "tedious Tory bashing" going on here.

      Dildo Harding is being (rightly) criticised for being a grossly incompetent fuckup who has a long history of fucking up everything she touches. That criticism is perfectly reasonable and more than justified. It's fair comment.

      The fact she's probably a Tory is irrelevant. Though who knows for certain how Dildo votes or if she's a party menber?

      Dildo is of course one of Boris's cronies. And married to a Tory MP. Which these days seem to be the essential requirements for receiving trainloads of cash from HM taxpayers.

      It's beyond comprehension that Dildo was the best choice to run the Test and Trace programme. Apart from Flailing Failing Grayling, anyone could have done a far better job.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "It's beyond comprehension that Dildo was the best choice to run the Test and Trace programme."

        Best choice? It's beyond comprehension that she was even considered a possible choice at all.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: 'Best choice'

          I was under the impression that she was asked personally by Boris Johnson to take it on, there was no 'competition' for the post, and she was the only 'candidate'.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: 'Best choice'

            The rationale was probably along the lines of "She ran some other techie thing somewhere or other. She's the only one of us who did. She must be right for this one.".

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: 'Best choice'

              I figured it was "whoever does this will fuck up, so let's give it to someone with expertise in fucking up".

              That's the system we generally used here in the US.

    7. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      New here?

    8. fajensen Silver badge
      Coat

      At least you lot got lucky with the vaccine programme: Kate Bingham, Tory crony wife that got the no-bid Vaccine Programme Contract just happened to be very competent and even have industry experience.

      That could so easily have gone very differently!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        I think it was the other way round. It was the scientists who knew her and tagged her for the job although I suppose her connections avoided her getting passed over.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          The vaccination programme was Sir Patrick Vallance's project, and is run by the professionals in the NHS. Test and Trace is Dido Harding's creation and was outsourced to commercial companies with great experience of getting government contracts.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Bingham was chair of the vaccine task force. I recall reading somewhere that right in the early days, i.e. not long after the SARS2 genome had been published, some of the UK scientists starting vaccine development roped her in to organise production so in effect the government was presented with a fait accompli. This may have been a story invented after the event; however it has a ring of truth in it in that somebody competent got the job which is not a normal outcome of the BoJo circus's way of appointing people to this sort of position.

          2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    9. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        In the latest news SERCO are pleased to announce that they have just appointed Sir Kevin Disgusted to their board. Sir Disgusted had a long and distinguished service as secretary of the Tunbridge Wells Conservative Association, and is a keen race-goer, and member of the Jockey Club.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "wins the prize for the most wasteful and inept public spending programme of all time"

    That depends on it's intended purpose. We don't know to what extent "Tory friends" have benefited.

    1. BenM 29
      Happy

      yes we do - about £22bn.

      1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

        Get your facts in order

        https://fullfact.org/health/test-trace-march-2021/

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          the tories are getting a taste of their own. They have always gleefully promoted the idea that anyone on a benefit is a lazy scrounger and deserving of derision even if it's tory policy that put them on the benefit in the first place.

          Now everyone assumes the tories are a bunch of corrupt, incompetent and heartless wankers. Boohoo. The difference is that that has mostly proven to be true where these shady nepotistic deals have any light shed on them. There's still plenty in the dark as well.

          1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

            No they haven't, that's a lazy stereotype.

            And because of that you're ok with people lying? How bizarre.

  7. jeffty

    To put it in context...

    DWP pays about £3.2bn to run its entire IT infrastructure to a combination of vendors, outsourcers and internals. That covers 900+ offices, 80,000+ staff, 18m claimants using 150+ different apps, and payments of £100bn+ in benefits a year.

    DWP isn't a shining beacon of efficiency either, it's had some horrendous cockups and overspends on technology in the past (EDS and the CSA computer system, Universal Credit, PIP etc).

    Even with all that in mind, T&T is a fraction of the size/staff and has spent DWP's entire IT budget nearly 7 times over.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: To put it in context...

      "Even with all that in mind, T&T is a fraction of the size/staff and has spent DWP's entire IT budget nearly 7 times over."

      To be fair to Test and Trace, their budget does include the cost of the test kits, and having them processed.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: To put it in context...

        > To be fair to Test and Trace, their budget does include the cost of the test kits, and having them processed.

        if you include that, then it's £34 billion spent

        £22bn is just the part that's unaccounted for

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. genghis_uk Silver badge

      Re: To put it in context...

      I would also add that DWP put the whole furlough scheme payment system in place and rolled it out in record time. Credit where it is due.

      1. bonkers

        Re: To put it in context...

        To put it in context, our current population is ~66 million.

        £22billion is £330 each - a laptop for every man, woman, child and weirdo in the UK

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: To put it in context...

          Or to put it another way £22 billion works out at an extra ~700,000 key NHS staff - nurses, lab techs, health visitors, etc - on £30K/year. Which would have been a far better use of the money.

  8. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Ugh!!

    It hardly bears saying... but what now? The PAC as far as I am aware have no real teeth or ability to change anything, so as usual it's back to the Tory BAU of the transference of wealth from the public to the private with no real world punitive measures to bring them back in line.

    I'm appreciative that someone looks into this, but it all seems a bit futile if the only real outcome is a somewhat sarcastic tweet.

    1. grizewald

      Re: Ugh!!

      This is precisely the problem.

      When you have people who suffer no consequences for squandering someone else's money, those people have absolutely no incentive to ensure that money is spent responsibly.

      Governments around the world use the fact that you can't prosecute a politician for the consequences of their decisions while in office to re-distribute massive amounts of taxpayer money to their mates and cronies. This won't change until holding public office does not come with a get out of jail free card.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ugh!!

        Well that's not going to happen until the functions of administration and law making are separated. I'd locate them at opposite ends of the land just to make sure.

      2. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

        Re: Ugh!!

        Supposedly intelligent voters will care about such practical issues and express them at the polls.

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          Re: Ugh!!

          All recent evidence points to the contrary

  9. Alan Brown Silver badge

    £22 billion over X NHS workers

    has been calculated as a LOT more than £10k per nurse

    Someone remind me about how much their pay rise was, again?

    1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

      Re: £22 billion over X NHS workers

      The pay rise hasn't been announced yet, but don't forget to include the annual pay progression that the union insists on in order to obscure the actual yearly increase.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: £22 billion over X NHS workers

        At least the NHS staff are real people spending into the real economy. I'd prefer that to all the exec's and shareholders getting massive gains from from companies doing share buybacks to artificially increase share values using virtually free taxpayer QE money, or R&D money, and pushing it through offshore tax havens.

        1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

          Re: £22 billion over X NHS workers

          That isn't anything like what QE is.

          If you don't remotely understand it, why are you commenting on it?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: £22 billion over X NHS workers

            I do understand that and did not liken it to QE. What I am saying is the money given to these people will be returned to the active real economy that benefits everyone so I don't begrudge that.

            The same cannot be said about the biggest benefactors of QE and other forms of corrupt crony capitalism who prefer to withhold the money and keep it from circulating in a productive economy.

  10. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Of all time?

    "wins the prize for the most wasteful and inept public spending programme of all time"

    Not sure he has got it right. Quite possibly "so far", but "of all time" disregards how much better they will do next year now that it is clear what can be achieved if people really make an effort.

  11. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Unhappy

    The crucial number ...

    ... is the proportion of test results delivered in under 24 hours from the swab being taken*. Dido Harding does not know, and, for some reason has not even bothered to find out. Test and Trace does not publish results from which this number can be determined. This is not merely incompetence, it is dereliction of duty.

    My personal experience (and one should never generalise from a single example) is that none of my three tests returned a result in under 4 days. This is totally inadequate to reduce infection rates for a virus that exhibits such a high rate of infection. (I would be interested to hear from other Register readers of their experiences of Test and Trace.)

    I would certainly be very interested to know the qualifications of the 'competitively priced' consultants on over £6k PER DAY, and why Baroness Harding thinks they are worth that level of fee.

    *(It is as important to know that you are infected and have to isolate, as it is to know that you are not infected with Covid-19, and can get back to work, and your contacts do not have to isolate either and can keep the economy going.)

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The crucial number ...

      "I would be interested to hear from other Register readers of their experiences of Test and Trace."

      I can only cite my daughter's experience. Returning from Spain she had the option of taking a test (back at the airport). After ringing several times for the delayed result she decided to drive back to the test centre and was half way there when they rung back.

      I haven't read of the PAC getting into this aspect of T&T but maybe they should: schoolchildren failing a lateral flow test can have a PCR test to overrule it. A test taken at school has no such option. The essence of a a quick test known to return a proportion of false positives is that it's treated as a presumptive test whose positives you should follow up with a definitive test. It's almost as if T&T and/or DoE don't know what they're doing.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: The crucial number ...

        From today's Financial Times* (front page article - their website has a paywall):

        "Yet less than 65 per cent of total laboratory testing capacity had been used in November and December. Even with this spare capacity, test and trace had never met the prime minister's commitment to turn around all tests in face-to-face settings in 24 hours - a goal he had said would be met by the end of June."

        *(I only get it when there is an article I want to read, it is a bit too pricey for every day at £2.90, and the web site subscription is £35 per month!)

        1. Long John Silver
          Pirate

          Re: The crucial number ...

          There is a Firefox browser add-on for bypassing newspaper paywalls.

          1. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

            Re: The crucial number ...

            A quick search shows several. One reason I wouldn't install one is because I fear malware. Another reason is because I don't really resent online newspapers getting the cash flow to pay journalists a living wage - even thought that means I don't always get to read an article I want to read. Is the world worse off because I didn't read it? Certainly not. Am I worse off, or am I just feeling worse off? Probably the latter, almost all the time.

    2. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: This is not merely incompetence

      It's not incompetence at all, it's by design.

    3. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: The crucial number ...

      My personal experience (and one should never generalise from a single example) is that none of my three tests returned a result in under 4 days. This is totally inadequate to reduce infection rates for a virus that exhibits such a high rate of infection. (I would be interested to hear from other Register readers of their experiences of Test and Trace.)

      Day 2 and Day 5 (TTR) within 24 hours, Day 8 just over 24 hours. Either they're getting better or number of test they do has reduced sufficiently that they can get results expediently.

  12. Howard Sway

    Most wasteful and inept public spending programme of all time

    Au contraire, they were extremely competent at funneling the public money into the pockets of the "right" people, and they don't consider that to be a waste at all.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Inept Targets

    In the news today, the response from Harding and her acolytes is that the system is world leading in that the UK is testing more than any other nation. The complaint, that doesn't seem to have struck home is that even a world leading amount of testing hasn't noticeably had any affect on managing the pandemic.

    A smart government wouldn't set the number of tests as the target, they would have set one related to reducing the infection rate. It was Deming who said (paraphrased) "Set people a target on which their jobs depend and they will do all they can to meet it - even it it requires destroying the company in the process." It's not party related as ISTR it was a Labour government that set NHS targets that bore little relationship to health outcomes (like patients had to be cleared from A&E within 4 hours - it didn't matter whether the patient survived in order to meet the target).

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Inept Targets

      It's the seductive lure of numbers. They are the rocks on which the unwary will dash themselves to pieces. Reducing something to numbers is irresistible. The easier the better and best of all if the numbers turn up on a display without you having to have the skill to operate some device to get them. Numbers become and end in themselves. They're much easier to deal with than the messy business which is the reality they represent. Management by numbers, therefore, becomes management by the numbers which are easiest to collect.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Inept Targets

        Using numbers to measure performance is good; the problem comes when those measures are then used as targets. A lot of managers (and consultants) talk of KPIs - totally ignoring the “K” - it means KEY, not “anything you can manage to measure.” Few Performance Indicators are really Key.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Private Eye covered this in their "Number crunching" section

    £2bn - Amount NASA budgeted to send Perseverance rover to Mars, landing it on planet to collect samples and search for signs of alien life.

    £22bn - Amount UK government budgeted to set up 'world-beating' test and trace system for coronavirus, which Dido Harding said last week was 'continuing to improve'.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Private Eye covered this in their "Number crunching" section

      Ah, yes. Continuous improvement.

      The powers that be decided on TQM - mantra "Get it right first time every time." (They, the top team, spectacularly failed at that one ballsing up a projected relocation.)

      Then they decided we had to move up a gear to ISO9000 - mantra "Continuous improvement.".

      Nobody explained why, if we were getting it right first time every time there was scope for any improvement, let alone continuous improvement.

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  15. Andy Non Silver badge
    FAIL

    Online test registration

    The test registration site is a ballsup. I was asked by my local hospital to do a home test. It arrived in an envelope that was massive and wouldn't fit through the letterbox so was dumped on the doorstep. The contents would have easily fit into a much smaller envelope that would have fitted.

    I went through the online registration of my test kit and after getting to the end and going through the Google captcha looking for crosswalks I got a message saying "there was a problem, try again." Tried again only this time I was looking for fire hydrants and got the same message. Pretty sure I did both capchas correctly. I phoned the number given to register my test kit instead as the website didn't work. Waded through the menu system then got cut off. Phoned again and finally managed to speak to someone to register the kit.

    I may be wrong, but from what I understand of that mysterious sixth person who went missing with the Brazilian strain of the virus also failed to register their test kit online. Probably the same issue that failed with mine, so their kit wasn't properly registered to anyone, resulting in that massive manhunt.

    So much incompetence, so little time...

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Online test registration

      How long did you have to wait for the result?

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: Online test registration

        Result came back a couple of days later (negative), so no issue with that part of it. I came very close to giving up in the first place though with the frustration trying to register the test kit.

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Online test registration

      I went through the online registration of my test kit and after getting to the end and going through the Google captcha looking for crosswalks I got a message saying "there was a problem, try again." Tried again only this time I was looking for fire hydrants and got the same message.

      Now that you have brought the matter up can anyone tell me why anyone navigating a Captcha has to interpret photographs of (for example) USian street furniture despite not living there or (as in my case) not even having visited the place? And why are the blasted pictures (a) so small (e.g. the size of a postage stamp) and (b) an exercise in minimising the number of pixels involved?

      Where is the grumply old git icon when you most need one?

      </grumpyoldgit>

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: Online test registration

        Fully agree. The other issue is why do they "need" to have a captcha at the end of the registration process anyway? The likely result is that some people fail to register their test kits and test and trace are left with kits they are unable to connect to anyone, rendering them worse than useless.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The other issue is why do they "need" to have a captcha

          because it's COOL!!!

          because it makes sites SECURE (everybody says that!)

          because "everybody" uses CAPCHA"

          because what if a secret army of Russian / Chinese bots wanted to register, we'd be DOOMED!

          because I'm paid 6K per day to tell you to implement it and shut the fuck up or else!

      2. Hawkeye Pierce

        Re: Online test registration

        Self driving cars is (perhaps) the answer*. More succinctly:

        https://xkcd.com/1897/

        *Alledgedly

      3. Mike Richards Silver badge

        Re: Online test registration

        Odd that the colossal intellects at Google can't geolocate users and adjust language and pictures in their Capchas to match their experience. It's a zebra crossing, not a crosswalk.

        And they can get off my lawn too!

    3. JohnMurray

      Re: Online test registration

      "So much incompetence, so little time..."

      So Much Money...

  16. Dr. G. Freeman

    So, the Track, Isolate, Test for Suspected Unprecedented Pathogen (TITSUP) system went Tits up, what's the problem? Did exactly what the Government described in the document.

    And £22 Billion went into the pension pots of a few of the People in charge's mates, again, what they wanted.

    It wasn't about saving lives, or even protecting them, if it were, they would have done things that actually worked. (theoretically)

  17. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  18. N2 Silver badge

    The Queen of Carnage...

    Turns gold into muck

    If anyone readily deserves to be cast onto the streets, it's her.

    1. seven of five Silver badge

      Re: The Queen of Carnage...

      Actually, she'll be an obstacle there, too.

  19. David 45

    What? !!!

    'Ow much? Blimey, just how can that flawed scheme have cost THAT much? Thought it had all gone a bit quite on that front.

  20. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Meg Hillier

    It took me a while to remember why the name of the committee chair was vaguely familiar...

    ...ah yes, Meg Hiller - former minister for identity cards in the Labour government.

    So I guess she knows pretty much everything about wasting a fortune on a government project.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Meg Hillier

      ...ah yes, Meg Hiller - former minister for identity cards in the Labour government.

      So I guess she knows pretty much everything about wasting a fortune on a government project.

      The money wasn't really wasted, the project was just filed away until it could be repackaged. Which was one of the issues around the centralised Track & Trace idea, which although probably more useful for epidemiologists, had obvious risk of scope creep. But it's conditioning people to accept the 'need' for tracking and contact/proximity tracing by more than just the usual FANG gang.

      Next step will be the vaccine 'passport'. Which has shades of the 'creeping compulsion' used in the ID Cards project, ie the idea that you'd 'need' an ID Card to do things you'd previously been able to do without one. Same thing is happening with 'passport' proposals, so you'll 'need' one to travel, work, go for a drink, or concert..

      But also potentially pointless given the number of Covid strains floating around now, which implies it mutates easily and some vaccines have limited effectiveness against new strains. 66m people, say 80% effectiveness, 13.2m people still at risk of circulating the virus, or incubating a new version.

  21. Phil Kingston

    As I get older I am more and more amazed at figures like 22 billion. I mean 22 _million_ is mind-boggling enough. I'm too lazy to go and read reports on what they actually spent the money on, but are we not in the realms of "could have had a few aircraft carriers for that" - something perhaps that would do a better service to the country.

    1. JohnMurray

      That would be not possible. There is no list of who got the money. Just like the garden bridge fiasco. Just like the Irish bridge/tunnel fiasco [will be]

    2. JohnMurray

      Quite right.

      For £22 billion we could have constructed 3 aircraft carriers and bought about 100 F35s' ... and probably sent a rover to Mars with the change.

  22. pintofbitter

    and well I never, nobody will be held to account,, again.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £22bn Test and Trace programme

    I thought I saw a figure of £37bn, or was it just theguardian being the usual scarcrow?! After all, 22bn seems... quite reasonable, no? :D

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. john 103

        Re: £22bn Test and Trace programme

        Have an up-vote for persistence

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the other hand

    How do you prove that

    (a) anything else could actually have done better in practice rather than theory (especially bearing in mind my next point...)

    (b) it would not have worked better if there were no idiots doing things like registering with someone else's name and address so "I won't need to take time off but they'll get told to self-isolate and it will fuck them right up" or "I got told to isolate but no fucking app is gonna tell me what to do and the Tories can go fuck themselves"... and rather a lot of similar comments.

    It's not all down to a failure by the app, is it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On the other hand

      IDK, maybe you could look around at other countries and compare what they did. That might answer point a) .

      As to point b) you are right, if you fetishize the gig economy, condone millions living a weeks wages from destitution and then ask them to give up two weeks work (and potentially lead to their families and friends also having to isolate) without putting in place an effective support system ,then that's what you get.

      I don't think anyone is blaming test and trace failure on a syntax error in an Android app - it's a systemic failure of a failed system.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On the other hand

      mostly down to a quite sensible lack of trust in the Govt given that they try to monetise everything related to this fucking disease

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells..

    Dear Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells...

    Clearly you are desperate to absolve Dido Harding of blame, and yes I have read https://fullfact.org/health/test-trace-march-2021/ - thank you for the link.

    It points out that only a small proportion of the money has gone to Serco. That's about all really.

    It doesn't confirm that the whole thing has been well managed, or even cost-effectively managed. It is a matter of record that many of the contacts were not tendered, and the system is unwieldy. There is no denying that the tracing app was an utter fiasco and the current tracing program has yet to show any actual material benefit, due to the slow and low percentage tracing success rate.

    Dido Harding is responsible for the whole sh1tshow.

    She is also the wife of the Tory MP who leads the anticorruption ctte for the Tories.

    This is endemic of all the appalling cronyism seen not just here but in PPE contracts etc.

    People are right, and have a right, to be p1ssed off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dear Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells..

      Delusional of Tunbridge Wells would be a much more appropriate name for Dildo Harding's biggest fan.

      After £37 billlon and almost a year of effort the best that useless fuckup can say is her track and trace system is showing signs of improvement. Well, I think we're entitled so see a lot more than "signs of improvement".

      The scum responsible for this clusterfuck of corruption, incompetence, sleaze and carnage should be in jail. 125,000 convictions for manslaughter would do for starters.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Testing in general...

    Looking at worldometer - I lack better stats - I see that the UK is about 6th in the world on the coveted deaths per million stat, 15th on tests per million, yet 25th on cases per million.

    This appears to suggest abysmal targeting of the testing regime. Clearly the same people have been tested over and over again.

    1. teebie

      Re: Testing in general...

      Testing the same people again and again can be sensible - for example, we want to continually check if care home workers have the virus.

      The word 'abysmal' certainly belongs in a description of track and trace, though.

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