The Government appreciates the value of data but lacks clear and sustained strategic leadership, with individual departments simply not making enough effort to manage and improve the quality of the information they hold.
That is just one of the findings of a new report by the National Audit Office, entitled "Challenges in Using Data Across Government, which states that the importance of investing in good quality data is not well understood and there is a culture of tolerating and working around poor data.
Despite plans to publish a data strategy next year, and the best efforts of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to encourage good practice, the Government has failed to make the progress it expected, largely because staff were diverted to working on Brexit issues.
DCMS is the only department that refers to data as a "strategic asset" in its 2018 single departmental plan, and, while the NAO says other departments do have data strategies, they are of varying maturity.
The report attributes the problems to a lack of leadership, funding pressures that often push data projects onto the back burner, and severe shortcomings in the quality of data.
It highlights how the data quality issues contributed to the Windrush controversy, in which immigrants from the Caribbean have been deprived of the right to live in the UK despite having come to the country legally.
A lack of common data models and standards also causes problems. The NAO found more than 20 different ways of identifying businesses and individuals across 10 departments and agencies, often due to a continuing reliance on legacy systems.
All this is contributing to a lack of time of accurate, timely and proportionate data, an issue which is hindering efforts to get the best value from public money or to use it more effectively.
NAO head Gareth Davies 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.
"The right processes, systems and conditions must now be put in place, otherwise the new data strategy will become yet another missed opportunity."