Tag Archives: SME government contracts

Did DWP mislead MPs and media over Universal Credit?

By T0ny Collins

Today’s report of the all-party Public Accounts Committee “Universal Credit: early progress” goes beyond criticisms of the scheme in a National Audit Office report of the same name on 5 September 2013.

Public Accounts MPs say the Department for Work and Pensions gave “misleading interviews to the press regarding progress after it became aware of difficulties with the programme”.

And as recently as July 2013 the “Department denied that there were problems with the programme’s IT when it gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee”.

These criticisms are against a background of the DWP’s refusal to publish any of the many internal and external reports the department has commissioned on the project’s progress, problems and challenges since 2011.

The Times today says that work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and members of his parliamentary team are “understood to have approached at least three Tory MPs on the cross-party [Public Accounts] committee to ask them to ensure that Robert Devereux, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions, was singled out for censure”.  In the end there was only limited criticism in the PAC report of Devereux – under his formal title of “Accounting Officer”.

Comment

If the DWP has been misleading the press, giving incorrect evidence to Parliament, and keeping secret its reports on the problems and challenges facing one of the government’s most important IT-based programmes – all of which seem to be the case – is it an institution that regards itself as uniquely outside the democratic process?

On big IT projects, officials are not motivated by money and concern for their jobs as are private sector boards of directors. When a private company gets it wrong and loses tens of millions on a project, the share price may fall, individual bonuses may be hit, and jobs, including the CEO’s, may be at risk.

In the public sector getting it wrong rarely has any implications for officials. They have only the threat of departmental embarrassment as a deterrent to getting it wrong. But they need not fear even embarrassment if they can mislead the press and Parliament and keep secret all their internal and external reports.

If a lack of transparency, culture of denial, and the misleading of Parliament continue to characterize big risky IT-based ventures in central government, one has to ask whether Whitehall is congenitally ill-suited to running such programmes.

The Public Accounts Committee warned in a report in 1984 about the risks of large public sector computer programmes. That report came after a series of project disasters.

So what has been learned in the last 30 years – other than that central departments are poorly equipped managerially – or democratically – to handle big IT-based programmes and projects?

These are some of the Public Accounts Committee’s findings:

MPs try to be positive

“We believe that meeting any specific timetable is less important than delivering the programme successfully. There is still the potential for Universal Credit to deliver significant benefits, but there is no clarity yet on the amount of savings it will achieve.”

Culture of denial

“The programme had also developed a flawed culture of reporting good news and denying that problems had emerged. This culture resulted from the desire of senior staff within the programme to show publically that they were able to push the programme forward, at the expense of ensuring that adequate controls were in place or listening to concerns raised about its delivery.

“Although the Department has tried to tackle this culture, it gave misleading interviews to the press regarding progress after it became aware of difficulties with the programme, and as recently as July 2013 the Department denied that there were problems with the programme’s IT when it gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee.”

Shocking absence of control over suppliers

“There has been a shocking absence of control over suppliers with the Department neglecting to implement basic procedures for monitoring and authorising expenditure…

“The Department recognises its supplier management has been weak, risking value for money.  Four main suppliers – Accenture, IBM, Hewlett Packard and British Telecom – have provided IT systems for Universal Credit, and by March 2013 the Department had paid them £265m out of the £303m spent with suppliers on IT systems.

“In February 2013 the Major Projects Authority found no evidence of the Department actively managing its supplier contracts, resulting in suppliers being out of control and financial controls not being in place.  The Department has yet to provide a comprehensive assessment of how much of this expenditure has proved nugatory, although the Major Projects Authority believes it will be a substantial figure running into hundreds of millions of pounds.”

Lack of oversight

The lack of oversight allowed the Department’s Universal Credit team to become isolated and defensive, undermining its ability to recognise the size of the problems the programme faced and to be candid when reporting progress…

“Oversight has been characterised by a failure to understand properly the nature and enormity of the task, a failure to monitor and challenge progress regularly, and a failure to intervene promptly when problems arose.

“Senior managers only became aware of problems through ad hoc reviews, mostly conducted by external reviewers, as inadequate management information and reporting arrangements had not alerted them that things were amiss.

“Given its huge importance to the Department, the Accounting Officer [Robert Devereux] and his team should have been more alert to identifying and acting on early warning signs that things were going wrong with the programme

Blinkered culture remains?

“Risk was not well managed and the divergence between planned and actual progress could and should have been spotted and acted upon earlier. The Department only reported good news and denied the problems that had emerged. The risk of a similarly blinkered culture remains as the Department will be working to tight timescales to get the programme back on track.”

Problems hidden

“It is extremely disappointing that the litany of problems in the Universal Credit Programme were often hidden by a culture prevalent in the Department which promoted only the telling of ‘good news’.

“For example, officials were aware that a critical report highlighting many of these issues had been discussed internally for months. Indeed, there are real doubts over when officials became aware of these problems and it is difficult to conceive, based on the evidence we were presented with, that officials within the Department did not know of them before July 2012.”

Shocking absence of financial and other controls

“There has been a shocking absence of financial and other internal controls and we are not yet convinced that the Department has robust plans to overcome the problems that have impeded progress.”

Did the DWP do anything well?

“The Department initially adopted a piecemeal approach to delivering the programme.

“In 2011 it identified over a hundred different types of users for Universal Credit, and initially sought to design IT solutions for each set of circumstances individually. It was only in early 2012 that the Department decided to stand back and try to establish a clearer picture of what the programme’s overall shape might look like.

“During the summer of 2012 the Department became aware of the problems that Universal Credit faced. It was first alerted by concerns raised in a supplier-led review, commissioned by the Secretary of State, which reported in July.

“The Department subsequently established that the programme’s progress was stalling because there were a number of unresolved issues which had become intractable, particularly relating to the level of security needed for identity assurance and protection against fraud and error and cyber-attack.

“The Department had been previously unaware of the programme’s difficulties because its internal lines of monitoring, intervention and defence, intended to identify and mitigate such problems, were not working properly. Governance arrangements were not remotely adequate, and the Accounting Officer [Robert Devereux] discussed progress with the head of the Universal Credit programme only every two or three weeks.

“The Department had inadequate performance information to scrutinise and challenge the programme’s reports of its progress, so internal reporting arrangements did not flag up that things were amiss. The Department’s corporate finance undertook insufficient work to ensure there was an appropriate control environment in place, and the Department’s process for ministers to sign-off higher-value contracts was weak.

“The Department’s senior management had relied on ad hoc reviews, mostly conducted by external reviewers, which only provided an occasional snapshot of the programme, instead of ensuring effective internal systems were in place to monitor and challenge progress. However, during 2012 the problems surfaced more clearly as the Universal Credit team became unable to respond to recommendations made by such reviews.”

Will Universal Credit ever work?

“The Department remains uncertain about key details of its final plans. It does not know how much can be delivered online, when this will be available, and what activities will continue to require face-to-face meetings.

“ The Department also does not know what the final cost of the IT will be, or the savings the programme is expected to deliver. Nor does it know when it will close down the other benefits that Universal Credit will replace.”

The Department has a target of enrolling 184,000 claimants on Universal Credit by April 2014 and has launched limited pilot schemes.”

Says the PAC report: “The current rate of progress is significantly below target, however. Only around 2,500 claimants were registered at the time of our hearing in September, and the Department was unwilling to speculate what number will be enrolled by next April.”

In a steady state Universal Credit is expected to deal with 10 million people in about 7.5 million households, making 1.6 million changes in circumstances each month.

Security versus usability

“The Department is aware that the system must include suitable security arrangements if Universal Credit is to operate effectively and deliver its intended benefits.  However, the Department has not yet finalised such a solution, and was unable to say when two key components – those countering fraud and error and confirming claimants’ identity- would be completed.

“The Department has found it particularly hard to establish the right balance between security and usability. The development of an effective security system has been hindered by security not being integral to the design of IT components from the outset, but instead being retro-fitted into systems, and suppliers working on different assumptions and to different standards. To address this, the Department told us it has now brought security issues together in one place, with one senior official responsible for overseeing this part of the programme.”

DWP response to PAC report

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson told the BBC

“This report doesn’t take into account our new leadership team, or our progress on delivery,” it said. “We have already taken comprehensive action including strengthening governance, supplier management and financial controls.”

The DWP said it did not accept “the write-off figure quoted by the committee” and expected it to be substantially less”.

A spokesman for Iain Duncan Smith told the BBC that he had “every confidence” in the team now running the programme, including Mr Devereux – whose position  some newspapers have suggested is under threat.

“Both the National Audit Office and the public accounts committee acknowledged a fortress mentality within the Universal Credit programme,” he said.

“Iain was clear back in the summer about how he and the permanent secretary took action to fix those problems.”

PAC report: Universal Credit: early progress

National Audit Office report: Universal Credit: early progress

Francis Maude boasts of £10bn savings but …

By Tony Collins 

This morning Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude held a press conference with his senior officials to announce that civil servants have radically changed the way they work to save £10bn in 2012/13.

The savings are nearly £2bn higher than originally planned and, according to the Cabinet Office, have been “reviewed and verified” by independent auditors.

With a little journalistic licence Maude says: “…we are on the way to managing our finances like the best-run FTSE100 businesses.”

The breakdown of the £10bn savings:

Procurement   £3.8bn
Centralisation of procurement for common goods and services  £1.0bn
Centrally renegotiating large government contracts  £0.8bn
Limiting expenditure on marketing and advertising, consultants and temporary agency staff   £1.9bn
Transformation savings   £1.1bn
IT spend controls and moving government services and transactions onto digital platforms  £0.5bn
Optimising the government’s property portfolio  £0.6bn
Project savings   £1.7bn
Reviewing performance of major government projects  £1.2bn
Taking waste out of the construction process  £0.4bn
Workforce savings   £3.4bn
Reducing the size of the Civil Service   £2.2bn
Increasing contributions to public sector pensions   £1.1bn

Comment

It’s good news and the figures don’t seem plucked out of thin air which sometimes happens when central government announces savings.

The big question is whether the savings are sustainable. Maude has inspired the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group to be motivated and hard-working. But bringing about long-term change in Whitehall – as opposed to restricting consultancy contracts and cutting annual costs of supplier contracts by reducing what’s delivered – is like peddling uphill. How long can you do it without losing motivation and energy? It’s not just parts of the civil service that are resistant to the savings agenda – it is also some IT suppliers, according to Government Computing.

It’s likely that only profound changes in central government operations and working practices will outlast the next general election. At the moment the civil service is like a rubber band that has been stretched a little. It wants to return to its standard shape, which the next government may allow it to do.

The National Audit Office said in its report in April 2012 on the Efficiency and Reform Group in 2011/12:

“Savings to date have differing degrees of sustainability.”

The NAO also said this:

“It is not fully clear how ERG intends to make the reforms necessary to secure enough savings over the rest of the spending review. ERG has yet to translate its ambition for saving £20 billion by 2014-15 into more detailed plans.

“ERG has made progress in developing strategies across its wide range of responsibilities, and is focusing on core activities likely to produce savings. However, until recently ERG’s focus has mainly been on the savings themselves, with less emphasis on delivery of the longer-term changes and improvement in efficiency necessary to make them sustainable.”

And this:

“Departments have still tended to lack a clear strategic vision of what they are to do, what they are not, and the most cost-effective way of delivering it. Much of departments’ 2014-15 savings are likely to come from further reductions in staff. Sustainability of these savings will depend on developing skills and working in new ways while maintaining staff motivation and engagement.”

But the NAO was generally positive about the ERG’s contribution to savings.

“ERG’s actions to date, particularly its spending controls, have helped departments deliver substantial spending reductions.”

We hope the Cabinet Office’s diligent efforts continue  – sustainably.

Efficiency and Reform 2012/13 savings. Summary report.

Some suppliers still resistant to change? – Government Computing.

Fujitsu banned from Whitehall contracts?

By Tony Collins

The FT reports today that Fujitsu has been deemed for the time being too high risk to take on new public sector deals, along with another unnamed IT services contractor.

The newspaper quotes “people close to the situation”.

It’s likely the article is correct in naming Fujitsu as a supplier that is deemed by the Cabinet Office to be high risk. It is unclear, though, whether being categorised as “high risk” by the Cabinet Office amounts to a ban for the time being on future government contracts.

The FT says that Fujitsu has “in essence” been blacklisted.  “The Cabinet Office refused to confirm the identities of either of the companies that have in effect been blacklisted,” says the FT.

It is also unclear whether the Cabinet Office could exclude a supplier from shortlists even if it wanted to. The Cabinet Office awards few large IT contracts of its own; contracts are awarded by departments, and the Cabinet Office has no unambiguous power to exclude particular suppliers from shortlists drawn up by autonomous departments that take their own decisions on which companies to award contracts to.

Mega-contracts to be awarded by central departments must, however, must go to the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority for approval.  The Authority could in theory require that Fujitsu be excluded from a shortlist before it gives approval.  This blacklisting would require Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, and the minister signing the mega-contract to be in agreement.

If a departmental minister refused to exclude  a supplier from a bid or shortlist because of its past performance what could the Cabinet Office do, especially if the minister argued that the supplier’s continued work , in the form of a renewed contract, was not just desirable but essential?

The FT says that the latest initiative to ban companies with troubled histories in government from new contracts is being spearheaded by Bill Crothers, formerly of Accenture.

He was appointed as chief procurement officer two months ago to inject private sector rigour into Whitehall’s contracting system. He is quoted in the FT as saying that his new approach would allow past performance to be taken into account for the first time when a company is bidding for a fresh tender.

Comment

The idea of a blacklist is a good one; indeed it would be the most important innovation in government IT since the general election. For decades MPs and others have said that under-performing suppliers should not be awarded new contracts. Now at last that may be happening.

After Fujitsu sued the Department for Health for about £700m over the NPfIT a settlement has been elusive, despite the intervention of the Cabinet Office. It is likely that Fujitsu UK’s hands will have been controlled by its parent in Japan.

Fujitsu’s performance on the “Libra” contract for IT in magistrates’ courts was strongly criticised by MPs and the National Audit Office which exposed repeated threats by the supplier to withdraw from the contract unless its terms were met.

Fujitsu could circumvent any blacklisting by becoming a subcontractor on a mega-contract, as it is at HMRC on the “ASPIRE” contract and at the DWP where its hardware runs benefit systems. Or a department could ignore the Cabinet Office and award non mega-contracts to Fujitsu.

We hope the Cabinet Office finds a way to make its blacklist – if that is what it is – stick. A  private sector company would not award a new contract to a supplier that had bitten in the past. Why would the public sector?

Ex Government CIO Joe Harley rejoins private sector

By Tony Collins

Former Government CIO Joe Harley has taken a position as non-executive adviser to Amor Group, an IT and business technology provider to the transport, energy and public sectors.

Amor says is taking the place of large systems integrators whose “monopolies are ending”.

It is Harley’s first official role since retiring from the civil service earlier this year.

Amor Group says it has “succeeded in recruiting the man credited with reforming the UK Government’s information communication and technology strategy to act as a strategic adviser”.

Harley was UK Government CIO between 2011 and 2012 and CIO at the Department of Work and Pensions from 2004 to 2012.

Amor has a turnover of about £45m and nearly 600 staff at offices in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Manchester, Coventry, London, Dubai and Houston.

Harley said,

“Amor Group is a new breed of companies that is helping organisations to improve their business performance and to manage their ICT budgets to deliver maximum value in the current economic climate and I am delighted to be helping a company which has grown year on year in a tough market, and that has such great ambitions for growth.

“Businesses are looking to more agile, flexible firms who can act quickly and save costs whilst not lowering service levels. I am looking forward to helping Amor continue that trend.”

John Innes, CEO at Amor, said,  “The days of the large systems integrators and monopolies are ending and we are taking their place. We signed a £18.5m contract last year with the Scottish Government to run its eProcurement service and we’ve seen real traction in International markets with our passenger tracking technology being installed at Dubai Airport and a number of wins for our Energy team in the US.

“What sets us apart is our culture as a company. We understand that technology only has a value when it delivers benefits to an organisation and we focus on delivering those benefits rather than selling heavyweight solutions.”

Harley’s background:

1993 – 1996: BP Alaska, IT director
1996 – 1998: BP Exploration and Downstream Europe, CIO
1998 – 2000: BP, global IT vice president
2000 – 2004: ICI Paints, CIO
2004 – 2012 Director General of Corporate IT and CIO, Department for Work and Pensions. Government CIO from 2011-2012.
Harley led the Universal Credit IT scheme which is due to go live from next October.

How to identify a high-risk supplier – Cabinet Office works out details

By Tony Collins

Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, has agreed mechanisms for officials to identify high-risk suppliers where “material and substantial underperformance is evident”.

On his blog Spend Matters, Peter Smith has published parts of a letter from Maude.

Where under-performing suppliers are identified “departments will be asked to engage with the Cabinet Office at each stage of any procurement process involving the affected supplier to ensure that performance concerns are taken fully into account before proceeding”.

The implication is that the Cabinet Office will draw up a blacklist of bad suppliers which departments will take account of when buying. Smith says that two suppliers are already on the blacklist.

Comment: 

For more than 20 years the trade press has identified the same suppliers in a succession of failed or failing IT-based projects but poor performance has never been taken seriously into account.

This is usually because the suppliers argue that the media and/or Parliament has got it all wrong.  Departments, it appears, will always prefer a potential supplier’s version to whatever is said in the media or in Parliament.

The Office of Government Commerce, now part of the Cabinet Office, kept intelligence information on suppliers but it seems to have made no difference in procurements.

It is unlikely the Cabinet Office’s blacklist will rule out any suppliers from a shortlist. As Smith says, suppliers will claim that any problem was all the fault of ministers or civil servants who kept changing their minds, were not around to make key decisions, or didn’t understand the nature of the work.

But still the blacklist is a worthwhile innovation. At least one big IT supplier has made a habit of threatening to withdraw from existing assignments when officials have refused to revise terms, prices or length of contract. The blacklist will strengthen the negotiating hand of officials.

The challenge for Maude will be persuading departments to take the blacklist idea seriously.

Peter Smith, Spend Matters.

Has DWP lost £400,000 worth of Universal Credit studies it commissioned?

By Tony Collins

On 12 March 2012, Chris Grayling, a minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, published a list of the DWP’s consultancy contracts.

Soon afterwards the question was asked: has the DWP published any of the consultants’ reports – nearly 50 of them commissioned from companies that included PricewaterCoopers, Atkins, Capgemini, IBM, Compass,  KPMG, Deloitte, Xantus, Gartner and Tribal?

No, said the DWP.

So I made an FOI request for two of the reports, on Universal Credit:

– Universal Credit Delivery Model Assessment Phase 1 and 2, and

– the Universal Credit End to End Technical Review.

The DWP could not find them. It didn’t even have a record of them.

Julie Kitchin, Senior Business Partner Operations at the DWP’s Financial Control Directorate, Risk Management Division at Leeds, said she requested a “thorough search of the Universal Credit Programme document library”.

And …

“Universal Credit Colleagues have confirmed that the Department does not hold documents with these titles or under these names.”

But Chris Grayling, a DWP minister, told the House of Commons that the reports exist. His written answer on 12 March 2012 referred to:

Universal Credit End to End Technical Review IBM £49,240
Universal Credit Delivery Model Assessment Phase 2 McKinsey and Partners £350,000

Julie Kitchin said she would check again and reply within 20 working days. “In the light of the additional information you have provided, I have asked the Universal Credit Programme to conduct a further search for the reports you have highlighted. ”

Comment:

Since the FOI Act came into force on 1 January 2005, the DWP has at no point granted any of my FOI requests or appeals. Its replies could be modelled on electronic birthday cards that play the same automated message every time you open them.

Perhaps the DWP could be the first department to use software to generate FOI replies without human involvement.

DWP hides already published Universal Credit report.

Chris Grayling’s written answer on DWP’s consultancy contracts

Millions of pounds of secret DWP reports

How CIOs and IT suppliers view GovIT change

By Tony Collins

CIOs and IT suppliers give their views on Government ICT in an authoritative report published today by the Institute for Government

Inside the wrapper of generally positive words, a report published today on government ICT by the Institute for Government suggests that major change is unlikely to happen, despite the best efforts of  CIOs and the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.

The report “System upgrade? The first year of the Government’s ICT strategy”  says progress has been made. But its messages suggest that reforms are unlikely to  amount to more than tweaks.

These are some of the key messages in the report:

If the minister and CIOs cannot direct change who can?

–          “… while the Minister for the Cabinet Office and government CIO are viewed as being responsible for delivering the ICT strategy (for example by the Public Accounts Committee) they currently lack the full authority to direct change.”

Not so agile

–           “While just over half of government departments may be running an agile project, there were concerns that these were often very minor projects running on the fringe of the departments.”

–          “We heard concerns from the supplier community and those inside government that in some areas projects may be being labelled as ‘agile’ without having really changed the way in which they were run.”

–          “CIOs should question whether they are genuinely improving the ways that they are working in areas such as agile, or whether they are just attaching a label to projects to get a tick in the box,” says the Institute for Government.

Savings not real?

–          “There was also an element of challenge to the savings figures provided by government. For example, some from government and the supplier community questioned whether the numbers represented genuine savings or just cuts in the services provided or deferred expenditure. “

–          “Others … cautioned that project scope creep or change requests could reduce actual savings in time. It was pointed out that the NAO [National Audit Office] will scrutinise whether savings have been achieved in future, which was seen as a clear incentive for accuracy – but there were, nonetheless, concerns that pressure to provide large savings figures meant that inadequate attention might be paid to verifying the savings …”

CIOs want faster ICT progress

–          “Among the CIOs we interviewed, there was a clear recognition that government ICT needed to improve.  ‘You expect an Amazon experience from a government department…’ ”

Lack of money good for change

–          “As one ICT lead noted, a lack of money was ‘always helpful’ in driving change as it promoted cross-government solution-sharing and led to more rigour in approving new spend.”

–          “Both ICT leaders and suppliers felt that the ICT moratorium had been a helpful stimulus for increased focus on value for money.”

–          “Though some of the larger suppliers felt bruised by the ‘smash and grab’ of initial interactions with the Coalition government, there was a recognition that the moratorium had been about ‘stopping things which were inappropriate’”.

GDS challenges norms

–          “New ways of working in the new Government Digital Service and the opening up of government through the Transparency agenda were also seen as providing a challenge to existing norms.”

–          The new Government Digital Service (GDS) is providing an example of a new way of doing things, and was pointed to by those inside and outside of government as embodying mould-breaking attitudes, using innovative techniques and … delivering results on very short timescales. Several interviews mentioned being invigorated by the positive approach of the GDS and their focus on delivering services to meet end-user needs.

ICT so poor staff circumvent it

–          “Public servants are increasingly frustrated that the ICT they use in their private lives appears to be far more advanced than the tools available to them at work. Indeed, there are already examples of employees circumventing the ICT that government provides them as they attempt to perform their job more effectively: creating what is known as a system of ‘shadow ICT’ that creates significant challenges for maintaining government security, collaborative working and government knowledge management.”

Joined-up Govt impossible?

–          “The possibility that departmental incentives continue to trump corporate contributions is further suggested by our survey results. Individuals do not yet feel that corporate contributions are valued or rewarded … elements of the [ICT] strategy call for departments to give up an element of autonomy and choice for the ‘greater good’. Several CIOs expressed concerns that by adopting elements of the strategy that were being developed or delivered by another department, they would end up having to accept a service that had been designed  around the needs of a different department.”

–          “Similarly, there were concerns that the host department would be at the top priority in the event of any problems or opportunities to develop services further. This speaks to a strongly department-centric culture. Suppliers noted, for example, that certain parts of government were still happy to ‘pay a premium for their autonomy’.”

–          “… the vast majority of those we spoke to suggested that departmental interests would almost always ultimately trump cross-government interests in the current government culture and context.”

–          “CIOs felt that they would be rewarded for delivery of departmental priorities – not pan-government work …”

CIO Council frustrations

“CIOs noted that there could be a discrepancy between what got agreed at the old CIO Council meetings and what people actually went away and did. Larger department CIOs also expressed frustration that – despite holding the largest budgets and carrying the largest delivery risks – their voices could easily be outweighed by the multitude of other people round the table.”

“The delivery board model [which has superseded CIO Council] has been recognised by both big and small departments as pragmatically dealing with both sides of this issue. Larger departments now form part of an inner-leadership circle, but with this recognition of their clout comes additional responsibility to own and drive through parts of the strategy… the challenge will now be to ensure that the ICT strategy doesn’t become a ‘large department-only’ affair and that other ICT leads can be effectively engaged.”

Canny suppliers?

–          The majority of ICT leads …stated that they believed the ICT strategy would benefit their department and government as a whole. This confidence was less apparent in the attitudes of suppliers who were, on the whole, more sceptical of government’s ability to drive change, though again generally supportive of the direction of travel.

A toothless ICT Strategy is of little value?

–          “…There was also a lack of clarity on how different elements of the [ICT] strategy would be enforced. As one ICT leader commented … ‘Is this a mandatable strategy or a reference document?’ ”

–          … “there are risks that the strategy could be delivered in a way that still doesn’t transform ICT performance.”

Francis Maude an asset

–          “Government ICT has also been a priority of the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude – giving the [change] agenda unprecedented ministerial impetus. He has been a visible face of ICT to many inside and outside of government, from demanding departmental data on ICT to being heavily involved in negotiations with ICT suppliers. Though few of his ministerial colleagues appear as passionate about improving government ICT, the CIOs we interviewed overwhelmingly expressed confidence that they would receive the support they needed to implement the changes in ICT.”

Smaller-budget CIOs out of the loop?

–          “With the CIO Council in hiatus for most of the last year, the CIOs of smaller departments felt out of the loop …”

Most ICT spending is outside SW1

–          “Suppliers and other ICT leaders pointed out, rightly, that the vast majority of ICT expenditure happens outside SW1 – with agencies, local government and organisations like primary care trusts and police forces still determining much of the citizen and workforce experience of ICT.”

SMEs still left out?

–          “Smaller suppliers … were generally encouraged that government was trying to use more contractual vehicles which would be open to them – but noted that it was ‘still extremely difficult to get close to government as an SME’.”

Who knows if use of ICT is improving?

–          “Government still lacks the information it needs to judge whether use of ICT across government is improving.”

System upgrade? The first year of the Government’s ICT Strategy.

Too early to claim success on GovIT – Institute for Government

Millions of pounds of secret DWP reports

By Tony Collins

The Department for Work and Pensions is keeping secret – as a matter of course – millions of pounds worth of reports it has commissioned on a wide range of IT and other projects including Universal Credit.

A DWP spokesperson, confirming that all the reports (below) are not published, told Campaign4Change that the reports have limited distribution after commitments and assurances were given to their “authors”.

These authors include Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Capgemini, KPMG, Gartner, McKinsey, Atkins, Tribal, Compass and IBM.

In the past, when the DWP has told the Information Commissioner that reports needed to be kept confidential because of commitments to suppliers, the Commissioner has found that the suppliers were content to have the reports published.

A spokesman for the DWP told us: “Consultants’ reports provide additional, often expert, information for the DWP to consider and have a limited distribution following commitments and assurances on disclosure with the authors.”

Lack of accountability

While the reports remain hidden the companies producing them will remain unaccountable for their contents. In our view the excessive and automatic secrecy brings a risk that taxpayers will end up paying millions of pounds for consultancy reports that tell the DWP what it wants to hear.

Would a consultancy be re-hired if its reports were sharply critical of the DWP and its projects?

And is the DWP’s instinctive secrecy appropriate in an era of so-called open government? The reports are not about Britain’s nuclear secrets. In the case of Universal Credit, reports on the progress or otherwise of the programme could be of interest to thousands of people whose benefits will be affected by the scheme.

We believe the DWP should be open by default, but will that ever happen? Epsom MP Chris Grayling is the current DWP minister responsible for the secret reports.

The reports

Below is a list of some of the unpublished consultancy reports produced for the DWP in 2010 and 2011:

Contract title Supplier Value (£)
Resource Management IT Healthcheck NSG 90,000
Jobcentre Plus Financial Information System Capability Review Capgemini 25,000
Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Plan Atkins 25,000
Undertake a Review of Data Centre Migration Approach PricewaterhouseCoopers 20,000
Organisational Design Project Deloitte 543,000
Developing a Business Intelligence Operating Model Deloitte 185,672
CIT Software Project Discovery Phase Deloitte 195,528
Support to CIT Improvement Programmes Tribal 760,000
Information Security Assurance Project Atkins 49,950
Assistance with Resource Management System Improvement Plan   Programme Phase 2 Atkins 72,690
Office for Disability Issues TrailBlazer Support—Housing Sitra 51,300
Office for Disability Issues—Trailblazer Resource Allocation for   Work Choice In-Control 11,750
Call Off Framework Agreement for Right to Control TrailBlazers PricewaterhouseCoopers 97,902
Commercial Assurance—Automated Delivery Service—Jobseekers   Allowance Atkins 47,300
Corporate Services Division Cost Optimisation Programme Network   and Telephony Xantus 94,370
National Registration Authority Audit (tScheme Audit) KPMG 10,727
Shingo Prize Pilot The Manufacturing   Institute—TMI Pract. Services 11,000
Business Control Strategic Improvements PricewaterhouseCoopers 750,000
A review of DWP Vendor Management Activities Procurement   Excellence 52,250
Assistance with Resource Management System Improvement Plan   Programme Phase 3 Atkins 94,050
Pension Reform Delivery Programme Closure Activity PricewaterhouseCoopers 100,000
Benchmarking Hosting Services Gartner 23,456
Application Delivery Centre (ADC) Validation Services Requests Atkins 97,500
Additional Modelling Support for Dynamic Benefits Oliver Wyman 19,500
Strategic Financial Consultancy Support to Help deliver Work   Programme KPMG 362,000
Shared Services Resource   Management Contract (RMOC) Benchmarking Compass 15,000
Final   assurance of DWP IT Strategy Capgemini 20,000
Research   into the Capacity of the Health Care Professional Market Deloitte 48,678
Commercial   support to the Work Programme Richard   Aitken-Davies 45,000
Support   to DWP Finance and Commercial Function (Organisation Design Review) PricewaterhouseCoopers 20,000
Support   to DWP CJT Cost Reduction Programme Bramble 1,065,000
DWP   Shared Services Delivery Model Options appraisal Deloitte 225,000
Benchmarking   of DWP Shared Services PricewaterhouseCoopers 19,000
Universal   Credit Delivery Model Assessment Phase 2 McKinsey and Partners 350,000
Universal   Credit Strategic Support Capgemini 505,000
Review   of Transforming Letters Project Deloitte 19,550
Application   Delivery Project Independent Market Assessment Compass 19,000
Universal   Credit End to End Technical Review IBM 49,240
Digital   Customer Total Experience Design Requirement Deloitte 16,667
Universal   Credit Supplier Workshop-Facilitation Xantus 11,399
Consultancy   Support to develop Flexible New Deal Exit Strategy KPMG 12,000
Support   of CIT Improvement Initiatives KPMG 250,000
Risk   Assurance Division Strategic Partner PricewaterhouseCoopers 1,000,000
Benchmarking   of the HPES Hosting Contract Compass 172,105
Compensating   People with Occupational Mesothelioma Deloitte 25,616
Specialist   tScheme Annual Audit of DWPs National Registration Authority KPMG 33,000

Is Francis Maude starting to spin – without realising it?

By Tony Collins

Francis Maude is, perhaps, the most effective Cabinet Office minister in decades.

If the business world divides into two main types of character, black and white, and grey – neither being better or worse than the other –  Maude is black and white.

He wants clarity. He shuns subtlety and complexity. He has no time for civil service sophistry and equivocation, or the coded language of some supplier representatives. He wants cuts in the cost of contracts and doesn’t want to hear long arguments on why things are not that simple. He had deep reservations over doing a new deal with CSC over the NPfIT.

A strength of Maude and his colleagues at the Cabinet Office has been the absence, or at least scarcity, of exaggerated and unsubstantiated statements of efficiency savings, of the sort made repeatedly during Labour’s tenure.

Is that beginning to change?

In the past fortnight Maude has made two major claims that are not based on published evidence.

• Maude said spending on SMEs has risen from 6.5% to 13.7%.  It’s not clear how that figure is calculated. There’s a good analysis of the tenuousness of the claim by Peter Smith of Spend Matters. How much of the increase in SME work is down to unaudited claims by large companies that they are giving their SMEs more work?

• He said that £200m has been cut from Capgemini’s Aspire contract with HMRC. [Aspire also involves Fujitsu and Accenture.] He has received much good publicity for the claim. Said the Telegraph yesterday:

“He [Maude]  announced that ministers had successfully renegotiated one deal on computers and tax systems for HM Revenue and Customs.

He said the new contract, with Capgemini, would save £200 million on the deal previously agreed.”

Last year Mark Hall, deputy CIO at HMRC was reported as saying that the Aspire contract was on course to save more than £1bn. Is the £200m quoted by Maude in many news articles this week new?

And none of the articles mention the total cost of the Aspire contract – so from what is £200m being cut?

At one point, according to Mark Hall, the estimated cost of Aspire rose to £10bn from its original estimate of £2.83bn over 10 years. This means that cost increases on the Aspire contract are measured in billions – which puts the £200m savings figure mentioned by Maude into context.

And have Maude and his team offered Capgemini anything in return for a price cut, such as an improved profit margin? [The contract is on an open-book accounting basis]. This week’s Cabinet Office statement on the £200m cut gives no help here. An HMRC FOI response in 2010 and an NAO report in 2006 show that costs of Aspire are fluid. They change according to internal demand; and pricing arrangements are complex. HMRC has refused FOI requests to publish the contract so how can anyone put the claimed £200m savings into a contractual content?

In 2007 negotiations between HMRC and Capgemini extended the 10-year contract by three years, to June 2017; and there’s an option to extend Aspire  for a further five years to 2022. In return for the contract extension Capgemini has already guaranteed savings of £70m a year and a further £110m a year from 2012. Are these savings in addition to the £200m a year Maude has announced? Or the £1bn savings mentioned by Mark Hall?

The good news is that HMRC’s CIO is Phil Pavitt who is a natural sceptic of big outsourcing deals. If anyone is going to achieve genuine savings on Aspire it is Pavitt. Indeed he has given some details of his negotiations. But the contractual context remains abstruse.

Comment

Doubtless Maude believes the figures he has announced on SMEs and Aspire are correct but without substantiation they will mean little to anyone except the media. Maude, perhaps, needs to trust his own cautious instincts than listen too much to his advisers. Otherwise he’ll begin to sound more like Labour ministers who repeatedly made claims the NAO found difficult to substantiate.

The important and impressive work Maude is doing to cut the costs of running government should not be trivialised and debased by spin. Announcements on what he is doing to cut costs and make government more open are usually helpful. But Maude should the first to differentiate the real – in other words the factually corroborated – from aggrandising and flimsy political claims.

Are SMEs getting more Government IT work?

Good piece by Peter Smith on why the government’s major IT suppliers may continue their rule over the Whitehall IT budgets (for the time being).

Ten reasons government procurement spend on SMEs isn’t increasing.