Jim Armitage: Let's end these rip-offs for the taxpayer on IT
Jim Armitage is the City editor of The Independent and London Evening Standard group of newspapers. He has been a reporter and editor for more than 20 years and was recently shortlisted for the Press Gazette financial journalist of the year and The Society of Editors financial journalist of the year awards. He contributes news, investigative reports and comment to the Independent titles plus a daily column in the Evening Standard.
Thursday 04 July 2013
Outlook Sometimes it seems like we should press control-alt-delete on the whole murky world of government IT procurement.
Margaret Hodge's sabre-toothed Public Accounts Committee shone some much-needed light on the chaos around big technology contracts inside Whitehall recently. Its report's name, A Recipe for Rip-offs, gives a clue as to what it found. So disorganised were some major IT contracts that when the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude took office, his mandarins could not tell him how much the contracts were costing. He had to ask the suppliers. This kind of incompetence is the equivalent of a big flashing sign saying "Taxpayer's money: plunder at will".
We should applaud the Office of Fair Trading for launching an investigation yesterday into allegations by smaller firms that the big boys – Hewlett Packard, Capita and the like – are squeezing them out. If this is found to be true, it should be stamped upon – oligopolies encourage higher prices.
But while decent competition on the supply side will indeed help to keep down costs, surely more urgent is that Whitehall gets itself organised as a buyer.
It should take note of how the private sector procures from third parties: compare contracts to establish where better value can be found, prioritise IT at the very outset of new policy initiatives, hire, or train, teams of procurement specialists like FTSE-100 companies do. And, perhaps most importantly, when putting out new tenders, do not attempt to micromanage the design of the IT. Specify what it has to do, then let the contractors work out how to do it. That way Whitehall, and us taxpayers, can harness the kind of innovations at which the private sector is supposed to excel.
- 1 JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 4 Video shows what happens when lava is poured onto ice
- 5 Cate Blanchett loses temper during interview: 'That's your f**king question?'
Andreas Lubitz: Who is Germanwings co-pilot who 'locked out captain and crashed flight 9525'?
Germanwings crash: The poignant final photograph taken by Iranian journalist on doomed flight after watching Barcelona play Real Madrid
#FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Cate Blanchett loses temper during interview: 'That's your f**king question?'
Jeremy Clarkson calls on trolls to leave producer Oisin Tymon alone: 'None of this is his fault'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Vote Ukip, says far-right group Britain First
iJobs Money & Business
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has arisen within th...
£50000 - £63000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / D...
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Applicants must hold a valid SIA Door Su...
£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - The C...