Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
CB, MR ANDREW
MONDAY 13 MAY 2002
40. Thank you for that very interesting series
of questions. It is always very valuable when members do their
own practical research. Thank you for that. You denied this newspaper
report about the numbers of Civil Service jobs which might go.
Assuming that you meet all the targets of delivering all your
services 100 per cent on-line by 2005, how many Civil Service
jobs do you think might go?
(Mr Pinder) I do not know.
(Mavis McDonald) I do not know. Neither we nor the
Treasury approach the totality of what is going on in that particular
way. The basic process of PSA's delivery targets monitoring against
those targets is the framework within which any individual e-business
case for a big project would fit. That would be the format within
which we would expect particular questions about efficiency savings,
including SAF savings, to be judged, talked about, set and monitored.
Within the Cabinet Office we would not. Neither anywhere else
within the Cabinet Office nor Andrew's Office sees individual
business cases that go forward in that way and build up that material.
41. Let us talk in general terms about this.
Far be it for me to put you on the spot, but if we are talking
about four million public sector employees and two million of
them actually connected with providing services direct to the
public, this could have a huge impact on the way our public services
are run and presumably on the ability for you and your Department
to transfer resources across to people in the front line.
(Mavis McDonald) That is clearly part of the agenda
in terms of being able to improve public service delivery. Things
like NHS Direct or e-prescriptions for example, can release the
time of doctors, nurses and other frontline staff, then you are
increasing the capacity of the whole service. Ministers view that
as a very valuable thing to be able to be doing. Some of that
may not save back office jobs in Whitehall or in National Health
Service Trusts. You would have to ask my colleagues in Health
about that. There are examples where you can just speed up the
service; you do not necessarily decrease staff, but the speed
with which you are interacting with the public means you are providing
a much more efficient service. We in the Cabinet Office have put
the registration for HMSO licensing on-line, so you can turn round
and get an immediate registration which saves three weeks per
person but has not meant that we have cut the staff, in the very
small unit, but the speed with which we are dealing with the cases
which come our way is particularly fast. Within the NAO report
is the example of the Planning Inspectorate, which I have had
some previous experience of managing, which is a demand-led organisation.
Some of that is about controlling demand, being able to give better
information back to the public about what is happening. There
might be a time when you would cut the staff, but you might just
want to get the service meeting some delivery targets first before
42. If I said to you that you could take 20
per cent out of the cost of staffing over ten years, of the two
million not involved in providing direct services up to 40 per
cent could be replaced, would you think I was talking complete
(Mavis McDonald) I would not necessarily know whether
there was any validity in that argument at all.
Chairman: I did not think we were going to get
much further, but it was worth a try.
43. I was rather surprised at Mr Pinder's opening
comment when he said "we are confident that by 2005 we shall
meet our targets". When you use the word "confident"
what exactly do you mean?
(Mr Pinder) I am not entirely sure that I said I was
confident. The language I used was that we asked Departments to
produce strategies which were their plans to get to the 2005 targets.
We have been through two rounds of that now. All those plans,
from all the Government Departments, show that they are on track
to deliver all their services by 2005 on-line. The plans are there
to do it. Two factors then come into play. One is whether they
can deliver on their plans, whether they can deliver on their
IT projects and the changes in culture and so on which are necessary
to get them there. That is a dependency which is really down to
the individual Departments and their delivery. The next important
thing is, having got those services on-line, are they done in
an attractive enough way to be used.
44. You are basing your confident prediction
on the information given to you by the project leaders.
(Mr Pinder) Information given to me by the Heads of
Department, each of whom has written to me with their e-strategies
twice now. We had the last round of that towards the end of last
year. These strategies are published. They are published on Departments'
websites or on our own website, so obviously available to the
NAO as well. People can examine them and see what Departments
are saying to us. These are plans not just by project managers,
but by the Heads of those Departments who put forward their e-strategies,
for example in the Cabinet Office.
45. Would you think Departments would have sufficient
knowledge to judge whether this project was going to be delivered
on time or do they rely on the project leaders?
(Mr Pinder) That is really a matter for OGC because
they have been looking in particular at Departments' capabilities
of delivering on the whole IT projects to get these services on-line.
In overall terms, absolutely, the Permanent Secretaries do understand
what is going on in their Departments and they take responsibility
for it and are accountable right down through the Departments.
One then has to rely on the processes in place to make sure the
IT projects are well managed and Hugh Barrett from OGC is doing
quite a lot of work in that area and could comment on that if
(Mr Barrett) The big change we have seen in the last
12 months is that as of December all major IT projects within
central civil government have senior responsible owners in place,
which is one of the recommendations from the 2000 Successful IT
report. That step forward made Departments' ability to manage
those projects much greater than it was in the past. That is a
very major step forward in capability to deliver IT enabled business
46. That seems very good. I notice that with
regard to the Home Office system which we tried to put in place
just for passing details of probationers into the system, we had
seven project managers. The first six would no doubt tell you
everything was fine and the last one would ask how it got in such
(Mr Barrett) That is why the gateway process, to which
I referred earlier, has been put in place. It is an independent
check, through the life of a project, to make sure that that cannot
happen for projects in the future.
47. You amaze me. What percentage of all the
project leaders actually stayed in place for the development and
delivery of that project?
(Mr Barrett) I am afraid I do not have that data.
48. Why? You just said this could not happen
again. You have done a lot of work to ensure how many are in place,
where they are and whether they will be there at the end of the
(Mr Barrett) What I was referring to was the gateway
process ensuring that there was an independent check at various
stages in the project, that things needed to make the project
successful were in place. For example, there were robust business
cases, that the procurement strategy was sound, that there was
stakeholder buy-in, that all the things which needed to be done
to deliver projects were done. The gateway process is an independent
check. We are not relying on an individual, the project manager
within a Department to say that has been done; it is an independent
check that that is happening.
49. So you cannot guarantee that these project
managers in a very fast changing world will not lose confidence,
drive, enthusiasm for any particular project they are on and shift
and go to the private sector or leave and just go.
(Mr Barrett) I cannot guarantee that, no.
50. So we have this terrible evolving situation
where projects can fall down and the person to blame has just
(Mr Barrett) The key thing is to have skilled expert
people running the projects. The gateway process looks at whether
that is the case. If you have a sound set of processes and methodologies
in place in an individual project, then you become less reliant
on the expertise and knowledge of an individual project leader.
You are right that at the end of the day you cannot guarantee
that somebody will not move to another Department, move to the
private sector; that happens.
51. Departments have in place at present baseline
methodologies to assess the extent to which efficiency improvements
made by IT have been achieved.
(Mr Barrett) Yes, they have made some progress towards
52. If these methodologies are not all in place,
which methodologies are we discussing now? Just the fact that
the programme will be on target? Because the programme cannot
be on target unless you have the rest of the package in place.
(Mr Barrett) Correct.
53. So that is the part which is missing.
(Mr Barrett) There is still work which needs to be
done within a number of Departments to ensure that business cases
are robust. As an example, as of December last year, 77 per cent
of Government Departments reported that they were following OGC
guidance on the development and use of business cases. By analogy,
23 per cent were not. One of the focuses of the work the OGC is
doing in the next six months is to work to improve that percentage
and get more Departments to follow our guidance in that particular
54. So we are in the process of shifting a lot
of these old methodologies and systems from what were traditionally
paper-based into IT and we are looking for the improvement which
can be made and all our new strategies will be IT based.
(Mr Barrett) That is not necessarily true.
55. Any reason why we should not be looking
(Mr Barrett) Which strategies are you talking about?
56. A lot of the stuff we have in Government
is paper-based systems.
(Mr Barrett) Yes.
57. We should look to move towards an IT base
which I suggest is not just the reproduction of the paper-based
system, but by using IT, we can shorten it, we can streamline
it, we can bring other activities in, etcetera. We can bring in
the fact that for the first time the customer has a role to play
in this so we look at it with a different philosophy.
(Mr Barrett) Provided there is a sound business case,
then the answer to that question is yes.
58. Has that been done across most Departments,
(Mavis McDonald) In the process of drawing up their
spending review proposals, all Departments are asked to look at
the capacity to make use of either e-support to themselves, to
their own infrastructure or service delivery. Those Departments
which are working on detailed delivery of plans alreadyand
increasingly Departments will be working on detailed delivery
plans for their PSAare also asked to look at those opportunities
and to make sure they re not missing them. They ought to be picking
them up in their own strategies, but as new priorities come on
board or the focus of a particular objective of Ministers changes,
then Departments are always asked to look at those.
59. Our UK online portal provides a single access.
What is the daily average use of this site? Do you know?
(Mavis McDonald) It is about one million hits a week.
I am not quite sure what the daily figures are.
(Mr Pinder) We prefer not to use this
expression `hits' because it is a fairly
3 Note by witness: This figure is incorrect.
There are in fact between 2.2m and 5.1m hits a week. Back