X-13 (1st February 2011)
Some interesting information on this project coming out now
Exchange between Dame Lesley Ann Strathie (Chief of HMRC) and Select Committee.
Q76 Austin Mitchell: Okay. Well, in that case, was it too big a transfer to an IT system that could not cope? I see there are problems with the software for the NPS that meant you have to delay the processing the 2008-09 PAYE returns. You must have had, I presume, the advice of consultants on your IT systems and on your software, so who is responsible for the fact the system could not cope?
Dame Lesley Strathie: First and foremost, there are several suppliers. HMRC's IT is provided by Aspire, which is a partnership led by Capgemini, and then we have various other parties in different parts of the system. When you say the IT did not work: this is a massive programme with lots of different packages of software. The vast majority of the system works. It does what it was asked to do and, indeed, I was in Birmingham last week with lots of our staff who had nothing but praise for the system in terms of what it could do. However, there are two elements here: there are the bits that did not quite work the way we wanted them to; there were the bits that were coming in later releases and we have just released a lot of them this weekend; but also, you specify you want something back here in 2003, you have nearly 400 changes in that time and then you have delivery in 2009. So, sometimes you get what you ask for, but it is not necessarily exactly as you need it. There are very few programmes that I have known that cover a length of period and a scale like this where you get exactly what you set out to get first time.
Q77 Austin Mitchell: Yes, we know it was a big job, but still there were software problems which delayed the reconciliation programme. Now, is anybody being held accountable for those mistakes?
Dame Lesley Strathie: Well, as far as the annual coding exercise and its relation to the overall programme, we are actually working through all of that at the moment. If there are mistakes there by any party, then they will be challenged on that.
Q78 Chair: Is Capgemini facing any detriment? Are you fining them or are you fining any of the partners who are part of this consortium, Aspire?
Dame Lesley Strathie: I don't have any evidence at the moment, as far as fining Capgemini.
Chair: BT, Fujitsu?
Dame Lesley Strathie: Aspire, as a partnership, is subject to breach under the terms on anything in terms of our live delivery.
Q79 Chair: So it is not their fault?
Dame Lesley Strathie: As far as Aspire is concerned, they are the live service deliverer. On the build for MPPC, we have Fujitsu and software suppliers, we have Accenture in systems integration, so in terms of what went wrong, as I have said, we have not completed that review and it would be wrong for me to make judgments until we come to the end of that review in regard to who has any questions to answer in that.
Q80 Chair: And when are you completing the review?
Dame Lesley Strathie: Well, we are almost at the end of the findings, conclusions, etc, but that then means that where there are questions to answer for anybody, either in HMRC or anywhere in the entire partnership for delivery, then we need to go through that process with them and give them the opportunity to respond.
Chair: There are a lot of people wanting to come in. Could you ask quickly on that?
Q81 Ian Swales: This contract to do this work: how much was it a fixed price contract and how competitive was the tendering process?
Q82 Mr Bacon: Can I add a supplementary there, because it is the same thing. When the Committee looked at Aspire originally, the NAO Report from whenever it was--four or five years ago--said that the cost was originally £2.3 billion and had risen, eventually, through mistakes up to £8.5 billion. Is the cost still £8.5 billion over 10 years or is it going higher?
Dame Lesley Strathie: I'm sorry. I cannot answer that.
Q83 Mr Bacon: You don't know how much the Aspire contract is costing you?
Dame Lesley Strathie: Well, you see, I think we are confusing two things here. Aspire is the partner who delivers our IT, so all our big systems, but we then offer contracts through a lengthy competitive tendering process for IT build, which is quite separate in the space. Then you have integration, so there are three parts to this. I just think that we are latching onto Aspire as the deliverer here when this is a system that has had many players over its life. So, the issue we had in software would not be an Aspire issue.
Q84 Mr Bacon: If Mr Swales permits, I would like to ask a narrow about one specific player, Deepak Singh, who was the Department's Chief Information Officer. Could you turn to page 30 of the main accounts, please? Do you see on the left there at the bottom, Dame Lesley, it says, "Deepak Singh to 18 June 2009" and then it says "45 to 50" and then in brackets, "£160,000 full-year equivalent". Are we on the same page?
Dame Lesley Strathie: Yes, we are.
Mr Bacon: Okay. Underneath at note 5, it says, "Deepak Singh was appointed on a three-year contract commencing on 19 June 2006." That was a fixed term, three-year contract. What that means is you knew in 2006 that three years later he would need to be replaced, and he became the Department's Director General and Chief Information Officer. Now, if you turn over the page, as it says he was appointed to a three-month contract and during this period Orwell Consulting was paid for his services, as detailed on page 32. If you turn over to page 32, at the bottom there it says, "For the period 19 June 2009 to 18 September 2009"--which is a total of 92 days, or 66 days excluding the Saturdays and Sundays-- "£149,500 was paid to Orwell Consulting Ltd for the services of Deepak Singh." Now, Orwell Consulting was formed at Companies House on 28 May 2009 and then Mr Singh left HMRC three weeks later on 19 June--his contract came to an end--and he was then re-engaged on a three-month contract and the payments were made to Orwell Consulting. So, in sum, he was given a three-year contract of about £160,000 a year. It came to an end; just before it came to an end he formed a company and you then paid him a further £150,000 for three months' work. Why?
Dame Lesley Strathie: Basically to de-risk the implementation of MPPC 3 and to deliver a large commercial renegotiation of our contract with Aspire.
Mr Bacon: Why was it necessary to pay him an annual rate of £600,000 when you had known three years previously in June 2006 that he in three years' time would have a contract that would expire? Why wasn't something done way ahead of time to make sure that his services could be retained without having to pay him the equivalent of £600,000 a year?
Dame Lesley Strathie: First of all, he was recruited on a fixed-term contract and roughly halfway through that fixed-term contract he was temporarily promoted to Director General and Chief Information Officer in HMRC. When I arrived in HMRC, we had a number of changes to directors general and one of the competitions was to find a new Chief Information Officer. Mr Singh applied for that job; he was unsuccessful; it was a fair and open competition with one of our commissioners.
Mr Bacon: When are we talking about now? Are you talking about when he was appointed temporarily?
Dame Lesley Strathie: No, I am saying when I went to the market for a Chief Information Officer--
Mr Bacon: Which was when?
Dame Lesley Strathie: I think competition would probably have started around January 2009 and Mr Singh was not successful. The process probably took about three to four months to find the Chief Information Officer. He was unsuccessful and the person who was successful was on a six-month release contract, so I had--
Mr Bacon: But Mr Singh had been the acting Chief Information Officer and Director General from October 2007, hadn't he?
Dame Lesley Strathie: Yes. But he was unsuccessful in applying for the job on a permanent basis. He was temporarily promoted to that job, we--
Mr Bacon: You were paying him £160,000 for a year's work. Why was it necessary to pay him £150,000 for a further three months' work at the end of his contract?
Dame Lesley Strathie: Very simply, he knew he was not getting the job. He knew there was a new CIO coming. We had this massive programme to land; we had the commercial negotiation. He was not interested in another short-term contract on the same basis. This was fairly unique and we did it within our rules. The balance, for me, was between being left without a CIO for that period or asking Mr Singh to strike a deal to cover the three-month period from when the contract ended, which would cover my negotiation and reduction in the six-month contract for his successor.
Mr Bacon: I just can't understand if he was not good enough to hire for the job permanently, how he could have been worth paying this enormous sum of money to keep him temporarily--but that's just a comment. I have one further question. If you look back on page 30, you will see in the second column it says £19,200 and if you turn over, under "Benefits in kind", the last sentence says, "Deepak Singh was provided with a benefit in kind relating to outplacement services."
Dame Lesley Strathie: Yes.
Mr Bacon: Now, what does "outplacement services" mean?
Dame Lesley Strathie: Well this was part of a personal package, and we do not normally talk about people, individuals in this detail in open forum, but as the numbers are there--Mr Singh had the choice of just simply leaving in June and we would have had no CIO. I had the choice, as did the rest of the panel, as to whether Mr Singh had the job or whether the most successful candidate and the best person to take HMRC forward had the job. We then have to manage a risk, and the risk was that we did not have anybody at the helm. One of my choices would have been to go to market to try to find an interim; it would not have been any cheaper and, secondly, we would have been starting from a very low knowledge base of complexity.
Mr Bacon: So sorry, but there are other people who want to get in and I still don't--what is the answer to my question?
Dame Lesley Strathie: But, in answering the question--
Mr Bacon: What are the outplacement services?
Dame Lesley Strathie: The individual deal that we had was that he would have opportunity and support to find his next job, either an internal--
Mr Bacon: So you spent £20,000 of public funds in helping him find alternative employment?
Dame Lesley Strathie: We spent £11,000--
Mr Bacon: Is that right? Just counselling on finding--
Dame Lesley Strathie: And the Department paid the tax on his benefits in kind.
Mr Bacon: Sorry, I am just trying to get clear in my own mind because you still have not answered my question. "Outplacement services" means employment counselling, help with finding a job from consultants who provide that sort of service. Is that what it means?
Dame Lesley Strathie: Yes. It means that, indeed.
Mr Bacon: Right. So the company was paid £20,000 to help him find another job.
Dame Lesley Strathie: Yes.
Mr Bacon: Okay. Extraordinary.
House of Commons - HM Revenue and Customs' 2009 - 10 Accounts - Public Accounts Committee
Revenue's tax computer switch savaged in MPs' report | Politics | The Guardian
Last edited by somabc; 1st February 2011 at 02:29 PM.
X-13 (1st February 2011)
Wow... I was going to ask for a tl;dr version, but that made some interesting reading.
I wish I could get £150,000 for 3 months work.
Where do I sign up for this kind of deal?
Running something the people in charge don't think I the best person for, for a huge sum of money and then getting a chunk of taxpayers' money to find another job.
This kind of thing just depresses me.
i've just created a program that pretends to store all personal information, but just stores random characters, then when you want it to print it out, you are required to pay me £450,000 for my bespoke printer that doesn't exist, and I will then take 25 years to write out the random characters that are meant to be your data.
See you later suckers, a life of luxury awaits me when my system is used in the NHS
Now that's fun reading!
She gets paid £175k a year for reportedly screwing up pretty much every aspect of her job.
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