15 years later, Government IT Projects repeating the same mistakes

Some 15 years ago, Computing published a star letter from a contractor on IR35, but the issues he raised about Government IT Project failures and Government being ripped off by the large corporates are just as valid now as they were then.

In an open letter to the Paymaster General he wrote:

Once again, the IT systems of government departments have been plastered all over the press as being nothing short of diabolical (Computing 12 October).

Who wrote these systems? I’m talking about the Passport Office system, Air and Naval Logistics systems, the London Ambulance Service and of course your own Inland Revenue systems. We all know how good those are.

In my 14 years in the IT industry I have been witness to some wonderful trickery from the larger IT solution Providers. For example, programs that were written to make it look like databases had been corrupted in the first place, giving the supplier extra time to complete the system without incurring penalties. The supplier not only used the extra time to complete the project without penalty but even had the audacity to charge the client an extortionate amount of money to fix the corruption caused by the scam programs.

Another favourite is the supplier that recruits freelance consultants at one rate and then places them on site with their client and charges anything up to five times as much for the same services. These suppliers then explain, at considerable length, how expensive contractors are, thus ensuring that the government continues to go back to them rather than the contractors.

Computing – October 2000

15 years later David Cameron  “explained to the [House of Commons Liaison Select] Committee that government has two lessons to learn from past failures, namely the dangers of large IT projects and that there is room for improvement when procuring the service.”

In the same meeting he went on to explain that significant increases in IT project success had been achieved by using SMEs instead of the larger corporates.

David Cameron: Public sector procurement facing skills shortage

In 2000, our contractor stated:

Not only has government put itself in a situation where it is totally dependant upon its suppliers, but it dare not even impose the contract’s penalty clauses. The next time you take a swipe at the freelance IT industry, take a look at the systems that have been supplied to you by large IT solution Providers. The corporate solution provider is not wonderful. When was the last time You were delivered a solution that worked as it was meant to, that was delivered at the quoted cost, and was delivered on time?

You’ve been had. Your suppliers are laughing at you and the IT consultants who could be part of a Proper solution are busily packing their bags. I challenge the government to perform a public audit of all its IT systems and suppliers.

Yet here we are again, the freelance consultants have been sacrificed in order to maximise profits for the large corporates working on the Scottish SAF project and the project is once again proving to be a costly disaster.

In 15 years, what lessons has the Government learned? It would appear nothing has been learned and the Government is still busily lining the pockets of their corporate suppliers with public money that could be used to fund teaching, the health service, agriculture and a plethora of other worthy causes.

I wonder if within the next 15 years the Government will finally learn to make better use of the resident freelance community instead of the Corporate leeches that bleed it dry and leave nothing.


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