The Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland published his report on the Land Registers’ (LRNI) £78 million LandWeb project. The report examines the background to the project, the reasons for the extension to the original Agreement, the project management and governance arrangements and whether the system is delivering the expected benefits.
- The project has delivered significant improvements to LRNI’s operations and benefits to its customers, particularly against the challenging backdrop of a buoyant property market and a significant increase in the level of conveyancing associated with the re-mortgaging of property. One of the most successful aspects of the Agreement has been ‘LandWeb Direct’, LRNI’s internet portal, which is available to registered business users both in Northern Ireland and the UK.
- DFP and BT maintain that there is clear evidence to indicate that the project delivers good value for money and has transformed Land Register’s Business. Mr Dowdall found however, that the Agreement precludes LRNI from obtaining information on the make-up of BT’s charges, costs, overheads and profits. In addition, a full benefits realisation or a post-implementation review has not yet been completed.
- The scope of the project and services delivered by BT has been extended resulting in an additional £19.2 million being paid to BT up to July 2007. This includes over £10 million for support staff initially engaged to clear less complex cases in LRNI’s backlog.
- One of the key drivers for the project was to deliver significant reductions in the fees charged for LRNI’s services. However, this has not been achieved with LRNI’s surplus income increasing to £8.6 million at 31 March 2007. Despite reductions in fee levels, a further surplus is expected in 2007-08. This, according to the Audit Office, indicates that LRNI customers are paying too much for the service provided.
- A long-standing problem has been the submission of incomplete or inaccurate applications to LRNI by the legal profession; this lengthens the conveyancing process and impacts on LRNI’s performance. However, LRNI has been pro-active in trying to improve the quality of submitted applications. This has resulted in a reduction in the number of rejected applications.
- While project management arrangements were defined in the Agreement, key decisions were not presented to, or approved by, the Project Board. The Audit Office’s review of Project Board minutes noted significant gaps between meetings during which important changes to the Agreement, with a value over £9 million, were agreed.