Data is not seen as a priority by the government, according to a report from the National Audit Office (NAO).
The report examines how government uses data to implement its policies and reform public services, it draws together the NAO’s experience of auditing government and the recent work that has identified where the quality and availability of data has been an issue.
It found the importance of investing in quality data is not well understood, and there is a culture of tolerating and working around poor data, in government.
Data is crucial to the way government delivers services for citizens, improves its own systems and processes and makes decisions, according to the NAO. The organisation said it has repeatedly highlighted the importance of evidence-based decision-making at all levels of government activity, and the problems that arise when data is inadequate.
The report also includes information about data projects that have sometimes been set aside when funding is under pressure, such as the government funding projects to automate data feeds like the Department for Work & Pensions using HMRC RTI to support benefit payments. The NAO said this has the potential to provide benefits, but this has often been driven by new policies rather than fixing ongoing problems.
Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “Government has lacked clear and sustained strategic leadership on data, and individual departments have not made enough effort to manage and improve the data they hold. This can reduce public confidence in government’s ability to collect and use people’s data effectively.”