Memorandum by Consignia plc
Consignia first became involved with the OGC
in a meeting on 5 March 2001 between the Chief Executive of Consignia
and the Chief Executive of the OGC. At this meeting three key
objectives were agreed:
to agree a Memorandum of Understanding
(MoU) which sets out the form of and intent behind a revitalised
relationship between OGC on behalf of central Government and Consignia;
to secure a seat at the Consignia
Users' Group (a forum of representatives of the major central
Government Departments which receive services from Consignia);
to develop and agree an efficient
procurement process for the roll out of the Your Guide (formerly
Government General Practitioner) service.
Negotiations on the MoU were led by the Head
of Procurement of Inland Revenue on behalf of OGC and the Managing
Director of Customer Management for Consignia. The process involved
a series of meetings to define and agree the content of the document
such that it could be put to the Consignia Users' Group (CUG)
for approval, prior to signature by both Chief Executives.
Discussions on the MoU proceeded well, and there
was early consensus on the form and content. After several iterations
a draft was put to the CUG for comment. This necessitated a number
of additional drafts and a reasonable degree of brokering with
Departments. OGC was represented at the meeting which finally
approved the MoU and was also instrumental in securing its agreement.
The MoU was finally signed on 7 September 2001.
Implementation is well underway, again with
Inland Revenue leading for HMG. A number of practical issues are
under discussion which should provide improvements to both the
relationships between the relevant parties and to the services
provided. The MoU is becoming more widely circulated amongst Departments
and is already bringing some early benefit.
Progress on implementation is reviewed regularly,
with reports made to the respective CEOs.
(ii) Consignia Users' Group
The CUG membership is drawn from a number of
major Departments which receive services from Consignia. It is
chaired by OGC and has begun to meet regularly since the discussions
on the MoU commenced. It is intended that it meets quarterly to
consider matters of common interest on Consignia issues. Bilateral
meetings with Departments continue as before.
Consignia now has a regular seat in the Group
and initial views of this arrangement are positive as it provides
an excellent framework to progress implementation of the MoU and
tackle relevant cross Government issues.
(iii) Your Guide Procurement
Your Guide is a service designed to exploit
the Post Office Branch Network to offer a range of Government
related services to citizens. As such it is an ideal example where
cross-Government procurement would be beneficial. A number of
meetings were held with OGC and DTI (the current programme pilot-sponsors)
in an attempt to identify a suitable sponsor for the roll out
and the related procurement.
Whilst the importance of finding relevant long
term sponsorship and developing a single procurement point are
recognised, there has been much more difficulty in agreeing solutions
to these issues and they remain unresolved.
Concurrent with discussions on procurement,
DTI requested that the Your Guide pilot be subjected to a review
at Gate 5 (go live). This was the first Gateway Review that Consignia
had been involved with and the process was embraced wholeheartedly
by the company and noted as such by OGC.
Although the review process was discussed some
months before the pilot date, it took quite some time for arrangements
to be made and a review team drawn together. Whilst there is definite
benefit in using staff with live operational experience, securing
their availability seems to be a difficult issue for OGC to manage
and the review was in the end put together very quickly and only
just before the pilot was due to start.
It was fortunate that no major reservations
were raised as it would have been very difficult to accommodate
the impact of these in the remaining time. There were also issues
in obtaining a final copy of the report, again evidence of the
pressure of work of the review team. There are clearly some lessons
to be learnt from this experience which have been shared with
Consignia remains supportive of the Gateway
process and welcomes the decision to carry out a review on the
programmes to provide automatic cash transfers for Benefit payments
and the Universal Bank/Post Office Card Account, covering both
Government and Consignia elements.
OGC makes major use of support from the main
Departments, thus effectively creating a cross-Government community
of procurement professionals. This has proved very beneficial
in dealings to date which have been led by Inland Revenue. Their
continued leadership of Consignia's relationship with central
Government should provide a strong catalyst for implementation
of the MoU and to inject change where prior relationships have
not been good. This will benefit all parties.
There have been frustrations over the procurement
process for Your Guide and this remains an urgent open issue.
This is one area where a procurement lead from within OGC might
be preferable to one from a Department leading on their behalf
as this would encourage a more impartial approach. This would
be especially beneficial where the involvement of all major Departments
helps to make the overall service package more effective, but
where the benefits at individual Department level are not as significant.
Your Guide is a prime example where the value of such cross-Department
working is anticipated.
The Gateway Review process is supported by Consignia
and its further use would be welcomed, especially where complex
programmes involving several Departments are involved. There are
lessons to be learnt from the experience of the Your Guide review,
but these are seen more as administrative than fundamental. The
only key concern is OGC's ability to secure continuously the quality
of resource it needs from already busy Departments, recognising
that the people desired are often the ones most critical to their
Consignia believes that the long term relationship
with OGC will prove beneficial and should create a more open environment,
thus encouraging value for money improvements for both parties.