Tag Archives: Home Office

Home Office’s IT Director McDonagh to take over Chant role at G-Cloud

By David Bicknell

Denise McDonagh, currently director of IT at the Home Office, is to take over responsibility for G-Cloud from Chris Chant who leaves at the end of the month.

In this announcement, as well as discussing McDonagh’s role as Chant’s replacement on G-Cloud, the government said that it is on track to launch the next iteration of the G-Cloud framework in late or early May.  It will incorporate a new approach that incorporates the ability to add new suppliers and services on a quarterly (or possibly more frequent) basis.  It suggests that this will be a procurement first in the UK, and possibly even in the world.  Existing G-Cloud suppliers should be able to move to the new framework with just a small amount of effort, it says. A series of new deals on the framework is also set  to be to announced.

Prior to the announcement of his departure, Chant had written a blog post that argued that unnacceptable IT is pervasive.

He suggested that:

“Real progress has been blocked by many things including an absence of capability in both departments and their suppliers, by a strong resistance to change, by the perverse incentives of contracts that mean its cheaper to pay service credits than to fix the problem and by an unwillingness to embrace the potential of newer and smaller players to offer status quo-busting ideas.

“CIOs across government, including me in various roles at the centre of government, have been guilty for too long of taking the easy path.  We have done the unacceptable and thought we were doing a great job.  We have:

  • Signed contracts with single suppliers that have led to both poor service and high costs, because that is the way government did things
  • Failed to let in innovative suppliers because of the constraints of those large contracts, because new suppliers, we figured, brought risk and uncertainty
  • Designed and delivered solutions that look, in today’s world, ridiculously expensive and over-engineered because we thought that was the right thing to do
  • Allowed our users to suffer with IT that is a decade – or more – behind what they are using at home because the security considerations for government are different and stricter from those for everyone else”

But, over the last 18 months, working on G-Cloud as well as the immediate forerunner of the Government Digital Service, Chant said he had seen the real signs of change, with some in the public sector no longer willing to put up with the poor service and delivery that they have experienced and they are actively looking for new ways of working. Notably, he suggested, big departments openly talk about wanting to get away from the traditional model of big, cumbersome IT and are serious.

Now, he went on, things get harder, notably:

Managing Multiple Suppliers

  • Departments are no longer going to have an easy ride as they seek to extend an existing contract or renew what they have now (a large single supplier monopoly over their IT).   They’re going to be pushed to break up contracts into smaller pieces, contract with or involve more SMEs and reuse what is already in place elsewhere.    There is no better place to start than by getting something you already have, or something that you need to have, from the G-Cloud framework. CIOs will need to increase the capability of their teams – and their own capability too – otherwise they will find that they are no longer playing a part in this new approach.  Some CIOs and some teams will not be able to make that transition.

Apples With Apples

  • For years, obtaining data about what government pays for IT and, worse, what it gets for that money has been mission impossible.  With transparency, increasing use of frameworks and smaller contracts, it will be easier than it has ever been to compare like for like costs across departments. CIOs will want to get ahead of that curve now and find out what their IT is truly costing them so that they can compare what new market offers really provide and whether it is worth making an early switch – and the pressure to make that switch before the end of the contract is only likely to increase as the true size of cost reductions becomes evident.

Digital By Default

  • The need to design services around the customer will become pervasive -whether that customer is a citizen in front of a web browser at home or one of our own staff working in an office.  The shift to “digital by default” (rather than “digital as well”) is fundamental and will cause a wholesale upheaval in organisations across government.   People who thought they were in charge of delivering transactions probably won’t be. People who are on the inside of government might find themselves moved to the outside and entirely new product offers will come about as a result.

IT in government has certainly come a long way, he insisted, but added that “..it just hasn’t come far enough.  It remains unacceptable.  The trends of the last couple of years – transparency, open data, open services, SMEs – aren’t going away; if anything, they will go stronger and bed in deeper.”

What needs to happen next, Chant said, is that:

  • CIOs across government need to recognise what has changed and stop hiding behind the comfort blanket of what has always been done before. That blanket is on fire.
  • Big suppliers should see the smoke from that comfort blanket and recognise that the world of government IT has changed.  They can no longer rely on delivering poor service for big money and get away with it.  The customer approach is changing and they will need to change too, or be consumed by the flames.
  • SMEs should embrace the opportunity they now have and bring their capabilities – speed, flexibility and low prices – to the government market.  For the first time, government is ready.

(My Campaign4Change colleague Tony Collins is currently away, but will be back shortly)

G-Cloud chief Chris Chant to retire


Siemens given extra £265m on passport contract

By Tony Collins

Changing the culture of the Home Office will be quite a challenge – but not an impossible one.

The immigration minister Damian Green has revealed in a Parliamentary reply that Siemens received at least £265m more than expected on a contract to build and run passport IT systems.

The extra money to Siemens was funded by the fees charged to passport applicants. The Home Office requires that the Identity and Passport Service covers its costs from passport fees – which have more than trebled since the start of the contract.

In September 1999, the fee payable by a member of the public making a postal application for a standard 10-year passport was:

– £21 for a standard passport

– £31 for passports issued over-the-counter.

Today a passport costs:

– £77.50 for a standard passport

– £129.50 for one over-the-counter.

Campaign4Change asked the Home Office for an explanation of the extra payments to Siemens. Its spokesman gave only a general account which answered none of our specific questions.  

When we expressed gratitude to Andrew Bell in the Home Office’s press office for his quick response to our questions and pointed out that he hadn’t answered any of them he replied: “We have nothing to add”.

What’s clear is that the Home Office may be under new coalition management but its culture of non-accountability and secrecy haven’t changed.

It’s also clear that, with Gateway reviews remaining secret, Parliament has no certain way of knowing when any large IT-enabled change contract is deviating substantially from the contract in time, scope or costs.

In 2009 the Home Office replaced Siemens with CSC as the main passport IT supplier contract. Have extra payments been made to CSC under its £385m 10-year passport contract? Parliament has no idea, and neither do we.

Damian Green reveals extra payments to Siemens

This was Damian Green’s reply to a question by SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford.

Dr Whiteford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the original estimate, at current prices, was for the cost to the public purse of the Siemens IT system for the Passport Agency; what the final cost, at current prices, was at the time of completion; and whether additional costs have been incurred since completion.

Damian Green: At the time of contract award, the anticipated contract value was between £80 to £100m over a 10-year period. The contract duration extended to 11 years at a total cost of approximately £365m.”

Green added: “The increase in costs over the term of the Siemens contract can be attributed to numerous factors including additional demand for passports, enhancements of the IT infrastructure and business processes to accommodate changes in policy, response to changes in security threats and customer service improvements.”

How well did Siemens perform on its £365m passport contract?

Siemens had mixed success on its passport contract. It helped introduce the new  Passport Application Support System [PASS] in 1999 which failed badly, in part because of errors in scanning forms; and nobody realised until too late that extra processing time on applications was slowing down the issuing of passports.

The result was that  hundreds of passport applicants had to cancel their holidays or change their travel dates. A national roll-out of PASS was delayed, and the new work processes and system eventually stabilised.

When the contract finished in 2009, CSC was appointed to build and run new IT systems under a £385m 10-year contract which included replacing  the PASS. An  upgrade of PASS in 2007 destabilised the system temporarily.

The incident made staff at the Identity and Passport Service realise that they could not  subject the PASS system to further major changes without risking disruption to internal operations.

A year earlier,  in 2006, the Identity and Passport Service had a failure with its introduction of an electronic passport application system EPA2. To its credit the Service later published the lessons from the project. This decision on openness came from managers at the passport service,  rather than from within the Home Office HQ.

Home Office culture of secrecy remains

To see if anything has changed on openness and accountability since the last administration we asked the Home Office the following:

a)       Does the Home Office consider the contract with Siemens to have been value for money?

b)       Has, or will, the Home Office publish any information on the contract to justify or explain the extra spend, such as Gateway reviews?

c)       Any comment please on a suggestion that Parliament should be kept informed of such increases.

d)       Are there any plans to explain or tell Parliament about any increases in the cost of the [replacement] contract with CSC?

This was the reply of the Home Office’s spokesman Andrew Bell:

“The parliamentary answer – enclosed below – covers some of this.

“In addition, to note that Siemens contract was for developing and maintaining the IT infrastructure for IPS  [Identity and Passport Service] to issue passports. It also included support for processing applications such as the scanning of the documents required for passports.

“The Identity and Passport Service awarded this new contract for providing this service to Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) in October 2009.”


Campaign4Change has given details of the Home Office’s replies to us to a campaigning MP.

We are grateful to publicservice.co.uk for its article which drew our attention to Damian Green’s reply.


MP asks NAO to consider an inquiry after our article on the Siemens passport contract.