New Gov’t CIO – a perfunctory appointment?

By Tony Collins

The Cabinet Office announced yesterday that the new government Chief Information Officer is Andy Nelson who will “hold the role alongside his existing position as the Ministry of Justice CIO”.

Nelson takes over from Joe Harley who will be retiring from the civil service at the end of March.

Ian Watmore, Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office, said “It is fantastic to be able to assign the role of government CIO to someone who has held major CIO roles in private sector and has been involved in the ICT strategy since the very beginning.

“Andy has worked closely with Joe over the past months and will continue to do so – ensuring that we continue to deliver ICT services fit for a modern civil service.”

When the MoJ advertised for a CIO in May 2009 it asked for a candidate to “drive a harmonisation, simplification and streamlining agenda, creating a more efficient and effective IT framework”. That’s close to what Nelson will be expected to do as government CIO.

But there are some signs that the Cabinet Office considers the government CIO role as more titular than strategic. Nelson’s CIO job at the Ministry of Justice is challenging enough without the wider government CIO role.

Last month a report published by the National Audit Office highlighted how limitations in Libra, a case management IT system in use across magistrates’ courts, has contributed towards  HM Courts Service’s inability to provide basic financial information to support the accounts.

Yesterday UK authority.com reported that the recruitment process for a government CIO did not involve external advertising and that interviews were held last week, which suggests the appointment did not involve a long and difficult process.

Sir Ian Magee, a senior fellow at the Institute for Government has called for a “truly independent government CIO”, adding that “doubling-up” was not the answer to meet the demands of the Government ICT Strategy, reports publicservice.co.uk.

Nelson does, however, have the credentials for working at the top of government IT: he was a management consultant at Accenture if only briefly, and has a private sector CIO background.

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2 responses to “New Gov’t CIO – a perfunctory appointment?

  1. Is a past history of having been a management consultant at Accenture now a necessary credential for working at the top of government IT?

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    • That was a wry reference to the body of ex-Accenture people at or close to the top of the civil service. It may seem that working for Accenture is a ticket to a top job in government but it’s more likely to be down to the quality and professionalism of the individuals. Accenture has not always been associated with success ie Single Payment Scheme but the company’s ex-partners usually impress. Tony.

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