Watchdog says Cambridge will waste millions more

June 7, 2002

Cambridge University will waste millions of pounds more on top of the £10 million it has already spent on the implementation of Capsa, its flawed financial accounting system, says the university's internal standards watchdog.

Cambridge's board of scrutiny says the system is still not working properly 21 months after the premature and disastrous "go live", and the university "has no practical alternative but to spend even more time and money on it". The board has called for a rethink of arrangements for appraising the university's senior managers after no one was held responsible for the "fiasco".

Capsa brought Cambridge to a virtual standstill in September 2000, and two external inquiries last year branded the move an "unmitigated disaster".

In a progress report this week the board of scrutiny reveals many further problems.

It says the system produces "almost unintelligible" financial reports, and is "clumsy, time-consuming, intellectually challenging, glitch-ridden and convoluted".

The cost of implementation rose from £4.3 million to £9.1 million and is continuing to rise. The university is expected to spend an extra £300,000 on an immediate upgrade and "a further £2 million on a bigger upgrade".

These figures do not include the expenditure that has been generated, for example, the time spent on training. "Neither can these figures measure the human cost in frustration and the breakdown of trust," the report says.

It says the external inquiries "clearly identify serious failures of both management and governance" and the board had already made plain that "the failures of management included a number of serious errors and omissions by the university's senior officers" that must be investigated.

"Yet far from conducting such a detailed inquiry, the (governing) council took what was virtually the first opportunity that presented itself to announce that it intended to absolve them. In the view of the board of scrutiny, the council was failing in its duty to the university when it rushed to judgement and acquittal".

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