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A decade after breaking HMRC’s Aspire deal, the Publish Workplace scandal exposes obtrusive similarities | Laptop Weekly Specific Instances

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Ten years in the past, as IT transformation director at HM Income & Customs (HMRC), I led the group that efficiently renegotiated the £800m per yr Aspire outsourcing contract with Capgemini and Fujitsu, saving taxpayers over £200m and dismantling a system riddled with inefficiencies and hidden prices.

But right here we’re once more, going through a scandal involving Fujitsu and the Publish Workplace’s Horizon IT system, this time the place lives have been destroyed as a consequence of defective software program and negligent oversight. The query we should ask ourselves is: why, after a decade and hundreds of thousands wasted, has nothing really modified?

The Aspire contract was stricken by comparable points to Horizon – opaque pricing, questionable efficiency, and an absence of accountability. We fought laborious to interrupt free from that contract, demanding transparency and worth for cash. Whereas we achieved success, it appears the teachings realized have been shortly forgotten.

The Publish Workplace Horizon scandal is a tragic reminder of the devastating penalties that may happen when know-how contracts are awarded and managed with out correct scrutiny. Subpostmasters, the lifeblood of our communities, misplaced every part as a consequence of a flawed system and a tradition of silence. This can’t be swept below the rug once more.

The general public inquiry underway is making a radical and unbiased investigation into the Horizon scandal, holding all events accountable for his or her roles on this injustice. However we additionally want systemic change inside authorities procurement, making certain transparency, equity, and sturdy oversight all through your complete lifecycle of IT contracts.

It is time to break the cycle of negligence and wasted taxpayer cash. We should study from the previous and maintain ourselves accountable for making a system that protects each public funds and the livelihoods of those that depend on them.

Procurement pitfalls

I’ve witnessed first-hand the pitfalls of public sector procurement counting on massive, single-source contracts. The Publish Workplace Horizon scandal, with its echoes of the Aspire contract I helped dismantle at HMRC a decade in the past, exposes a systemic subject that calls for speedy consideration.

Whereas we had a victory, it appears the teachings realized have been fleeting. Horizon uncovered how counting on a single provider breeds negligence, fosters complacency, and in the end, harms the very folks authorities ought to shield.

The basic query stays – has authorities procurement really modified?

Again in 2012, HMRC confronted conflicting directives – cut back prices, modernise our programs, however keep away from upsetting suppliers. It felt like an not possible balancing act. However even then, we noticed the potential for innovation and the worth of smaller, nimbler corporations. The Aspire renegotiation aimed to interrupt the mould, permitting extra SMEs to contribute.

Has Brexit stifled this progress? Has it additional entrenched massive system integrators, limiting innovation and competitors? Are they nonetheless prioritising sustaining legacy programs as an alternative of embracing data-driven, microservices architectures that minimise dependence on outdated IT?

The reply appears self-evident.

The Publish Workplace debacle exemplifies the continued failure to study from previous errors. We can’t proceed throwing cash at monolithic suppliers who view taxpayers as their meal ticket. A systemic overhaul of public sector procurement is required, together with:

  • Ending the reliance on single-source contracts. Encourage competitors and innovation by fostering a various ecosystem of suppliers, significantly SMEs.
  • Prioritise transparency and accountability. Contain all stakeholders in decision-making, implement sturdy oversight, and maintain all events answerable for outcomes.
  • Concentrate on knowledge and microservices. Break away from legacy programs, embrace cutting-edge know-how, and empower progressive options that drive effectivity and value discount.

The Publish Workplace scandal is a wake-up name. We can’t afford to let historical past repeat itself. It is time to break the cycle of wasted taxpayer cash and create a procurement system that serves the general public, not the pursuits of privileged suppliers.

Louise McCarthy was IT transformation director at HMRC from 2009 to 2012, and subsequently fulfilled the same function at Aviva, Specsavers, the European Financial institution for Reconstruction and Growth and HSBC. She is now a non-executive director and board advisor for a variety of corporations.


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