So many milestones have been missed this year that just £700,000 of the £8m Police Scotland expected to pay has been handed over, MSPs on the justice committee heard.
Convener Christine Grahame MSP said the “I6” contract – the biggest ever signed by Scottish police – is “flawed”.
But Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson, the senior reporting officer for I6, insisted it would eventually deliver a better service for the public.
The committee heard that while £8m was supposed to be paid this year for different parts of I6 – which will take over from 135 different IT systems currently used by police – just £700,000 has so far been handed over.
The new national force, which is now almost a year old, is paying Accenture £39m to deliver I6, although the total cost rises to £60m when other factors are taken into account.
Members asked to see the contract, even if parts have to be redacted, to better understand the scale of the problem.
Ms Grahame said: “This is extremely concerning that the party contracting did not know what they were supposed to be delivering, is that correct?
“It’s basic to say in a contract, I’m paying for this, you’re delivering that. How big are these differences?”
The police chief called it a “difference of perception”, but could not be more precise about the scale of the problem.
“That’s what we’re trying to work through. After 18 months of competitive dialogue I would have expected to not have this, but that’s the situation we’re in,” Mr Richardson said.
Scottish police have a poor record with IT projects, with the former Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos) scrapping a £7.7m Performance Platform before it saw the light of day.
The force insists it has learned its lessons, and high levels of scrutiny have flagged up these issues at the earliest stage, before money has changed hands.
But Ms Grahame said: “The [I6] contract is flawed.”
“It’s not flawed,” Mr Richardson replied.
“It must be if there’s a dispute,” she hit back. “It’s flawed in somebody’s eyes. It’s certainly flawed in Accenture’s eyes.”
Graham Pearson, Labour’s justice spokesman at Holyrood, asked: “Is the programme behind schedule?”
Mr Richardson replied: “It’s fair to say it is.”
And the police chief admitted the force and Accenture could end up in legal dispute.
“I can’t give any guarantees we will not end up in some kind of dispute, but that’s not my expectation,” Mr Richardson said.
Police Scotland has previously estimated that the new IT system will double the time officers can spend on the beat.
Speaking afterwards Alison McInnes, Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman and committee member, said she had concerns. “With just four weeks of this financial year remaining, only £700,000 of the £8m allocated to IT reform this year has so far been spent. Only one of the five so-called project ‘milestones’ that should have been completed this year has so far been achieved,” she said.
“The committee also heard that the I6 IT contract was signed in June 2013, commenced in July, and was the subject of contract mediation by August.”
An Accenture spokesman said: “We don’t comment on our clients contracts.”