The Commons Public Accounts committee has published its final verdict on the BBC’s failed Digital Media Initiative (DMI), which wasted almost £100m of licence fee money.
The project, which was started in 2008 and abandoned last year, was supposed to create the most advanced digital film handling system in the world.
But in a devastating attack on the BBC’s conduct, committee chairman Margaret Hodge says the corporation failed from the Trustees downwards to manage the initiative and also refused to share when asked vital information about how the project was being managed.
The committee has issued a six point list of demands about future BBC management. They amount to a requirement that the corporation follows the basic ABC of management procedures.
The committee’s report is the latest in a long line of critical investigations into the DMI debacle, including an inquiry by the National Audit Office in January which documented a catalogue of mistakes.
The only usable system delivered by DMI was an archive and ordering system that was slower than the 40-year-old process it was intended to replace, with just 163 staff and a running cost of £3m a year, four times the £780,000 annual cost of its archaic predecessor.
The BBC’s former chief technology officer John Linwood, who paid for the DMI fiasco with his job last summer, is understood to be continuing his legal action against the corporation.
The committee called on the BBC Trust to “set out…what changes it will make to be more proactive in chasing and challenging the BBC executive’s performance in delivering major projects so that it can properly protect the licence fee payers’ interest”.
Mrs Hodge said: “When my Committee examined the DMI’s progress in February 2011, the BBC told us that the DMI was “an absolutely essential have to have” and that a lot of the BBC’s future was tied up in the successful delivery of the DMI.
“The BBC also told us that it was using the DMI to make many programmes and was on track to complete the system in 2011 with no further delays. This turned out not to be the case. In reality the BBC only ever used the DMI to make one programme, called ‘Bang Goes the Theory’.
“The BBC was far too complacent about the high risks involved in taking it in-house. No single individual had overall responsibility or accountability for delivering the DMI and achieving the benefits, or took ownership of problems when they arose.”