A storm has erupted over the failed government track and trace app for coronavirus (Covid-19). Because it’s emerged that it wasted millions of pounds on the unsuccessful tech. So, people are wondering where this money has gone. But we already know part of that answer.
The Guardian reported that on 18 June, health secretary Matt Hancock ditched the NHSX [the NHS’s tech arm] track and trace app. It said:
In an embarrassing U-turn, Matt Hancock said the NHS would switch to an alternative designed by the US tech companies Apple and Google, which is months away from being ready.
The Guardian noted that work started on the failed NHSX app:
in March as the pandemic unfolded, but despite weeks of work, officials admitted on Thursday that the NHS app only recognised 4% of Apple phones and 75% of Google Android devices during testing on the Isle of Wight.
That was because the design of Apple’s iPhone operating system is such that apps quickly go to sleep when they are not being used and cannot be activated by Bluetooth
The cost to date has been £11.8m
People on Twitter were wondering where the money had gone:
You know that App that the Gvmnt paid nearly £12m for that has now been abandoned?
The contract was given just 3 months ago.
That's nearly £4 million a MONTH to write a smartphone App.
WTF did they spend it on?
— Jason J Hunter (Not a noble Lord) (@JJHTweets) June 23, 2020
Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow cabinet office minister Rachel Reeves told HuffPost:
The government ignored warnings and evidence from other countries that this particular project would not work and instead the ministers squandered at least £11.8m of public money on this costly and chaotic error.
Thanks to independent media outlet Byline Times, we already know where some of the money has gone: straight into the pockets of private companies.
Million pound contracts
Byline Times reported in May that the government had given contracts for the app to two companies: Go Pivotal (UK) and Zuhlke Engineering Ltd. The contracts were worth £1.3m and £3.9m respectively. But it seems that despite the government scrapping the NHSX app, these companies may have netted money already.
Go Pivotal’s contract ran for just over a month, from 23 March 2020 to 27 April, with the government paying monthly in arrears. So, it would seem the public have probably already paid Go Pivotal:
The contract with Zuhlke is less clear. It was agreed to run from 6 May 2020 to 10 November 2020, with a 30-day notice period. So, with Hancock officially abandoning the NHSX app on 18 June, there may be at least one month that the government will have to pay Zuhlke for, if not two:
The Canary asked NHSX for comment. We specifically wanted to know if it had paid Go Pivotal and Zuhlke Engineering Ltd any money in relation to the app. A Department of Health and Social Care (DoHSC) spokesperson said:
We were absolutely right to invest in the Isle of Wight phase – it has provided us with valuable information that we will now use to build an app that is right for the British public.
Our rigorous testing identified issues both with our app and the Google/Apple API, which did not estimate distance in the way we required. So if we had simply followed their approach we would be no further towards building a viable product.
We are now working on a solution that brings together what we have learned as we develop a new version of an app to support the entire NHS Test and Trace service.
£11.8m in terms of government finances is small change. But Reeves points out that the money could have bought PPE supplies. And moreover, this shambles is another example of failed privatisation and corporate interference in public services. Which is, of course, the Tory way.
Featured image via YouTube – Guardian News
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?