Appendix 1: Government response to the
Committee's Twelfth Report of Session 2010-12|
The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC)
published its report Government and IT - "a recipe for
rip-offs": time for a new approach on 28 July 2011. The
Government welcomes the Committee's interest in and support for
government Information and Communication Technology (ICT). ICT
is vital for the delivery of efficient, cost-effective public
services which are responsive to the needs of citizens and businesses.
The Government published the ICT Strategy in March 2011 that
set out how the Government ICT landscape would change over the
current spending review period, and included 30 actions which
form the foundation activities for achieving the Strategy's core
- reducing waste and project
failure, and stimulating economic growth;
- creating a common ICT infrastructure;
- using ICT to enable and deliver change; and
- strengthening governance.
Responses to the Committee's recommendations are
set out below, grouped together where this is helpful.
Information, benchmarking and transparency
Recommendation at paragraph 15
Having access to up-to-date and accurate information
about government IT is essential if the Government is to reform
its IT successfully. Without it the Cabinet Office will be unable
to monitor and enforce its programme of reforms. We were particularly
shocked to learn that, on coming to office, the Minister had to
ask the IT suppliers for information about the value of their
contracts. We welcome the Government's commitment to rectifying
this situation. We recommend that the Government work with the
NAO to identify which data it needs to gather to monitor the progress
of its reforms and outline in its response to this Report what
information will be collected by departments and how frequently
this data will be gathered.
Recommendation at paragraph 20
The poor benchmarking of central government's
IT expenditure is unacceptable. Without this information it will
not be possible for the Government to advance effectively its
cost reduction agenda. We recommend that the Government should
investigate the claims of overcharging put to us and seek to identify
reliable and comparable cost benchmarks, and collect accurate
information from departments in order to compare with those benchmarks.
Where possible bespoke projects should also be benchmarked, and
the Government should trial ways of conducting benchmarking exercises
for its more complex projects. The Government should use independent
and specialist advisers and the NAO to assist with identifying
objective benchmarking measurements.
The Government agrees with both recommendations.
We are committed to identifying and collating the data required
to progress reform of government ICT. Actions to address this
- publication of the Strategic
Implementation Plan (SIP) for the ICT Strategy, which includes
metrics and key milestones to track the achievement of the Strategy's
objectives and expected benefits. The metrics will be kept under
review by the Chief Information Officer Delivery Board, and will
be developed and extended as delivery areas mature;
- the first version of a fully populated ICT asset
and services register which will provide a valuable source of
management information such as up-to-date and comparable data
on ICT assets and services across central government and, as
it is extended, across the wider public sector;
- engaging with the National Audit Office to help
ensure effective monitoring and measurement of progress;
- creating a contract library to collect and analyse
all large extant contracts in central civil government; and
- improving forecasting of contracted spend is
essential and will be addressed.
Government actions to address benchmarking and claims
of overcharging include:
- Publishing departmental Quarterly
Data Summaries (QDS), which provide a snapshot of how each department
is spending its budget, the results it has achieved and how it
is deploying its workforce. Specifically on ICT, the QDS provide
figures on the total third party ICT costs and the cost of desktop
provision per Full Time Equivalent (FTE). As departmental definitions,
time periods and data collection processes align, the QDS will
also enable direct comparison between departments of common measures;
- The Major Projects Authority (MPA) will, by December
2011, publish more data in the Government's first Annual Report
on Major Projects, including more specific information on the
high risk and high value projects, referred to collectively as
the Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP);
- The Large Contract reviews have highlighted the
provision of much greater detail and transparency of cost driver
information as a key opportunity for the improvement of both the
contract management of individual deals as well as providing important
benchmarks for the Crown Representatives in their dealings with
individual suppliers and across the market. There is also an overall
requirement within government to improve both the general levels
of commercial understanding and also specific skills in contract
management (as distinct from contract letting and procurement).
- Crown Representatives have been appointed to
co-ordinate the views and requirements of HMG customer departments
in relationship to suppliers, and to help departments to manage
their suppliers and spend effectively, deriving value for money
from their purchasing. To ensure these objectives are achieved,
work is underway with departments to develop a framework to consistently
measure new bids so that industry and supplier benchmarks are
considered appropriately during the procurement process; and
- There is also an ongoing programme of review
of contracts with more than £100mn of remaining value which
is being carried out in support of the recommendation in the Green
Review. This is reaching the end of the pilot stage and opportunities
relating to specific contracts, as well as generic areas for improvement,
are being proposed in parallel with the plans to roll-out the
review process across all qualifying contracts.
Recommendation at paragraph 25
Making data about expenditure available is not
only a good discipline for departments; it also allows the Government
to harness independent views on how to deliver services more cost
effectively. The Government should publish in full all contracts.
It should publish as much information as possible about how it
runs its IT to enable effective benchmarking and to allow external
experts to suggest different and more economical and effective
ways of running its systems. Feedback it receives based on this
information should be used to challenge and hold to account current
providers, and to renegotiate, disaggregate and re-compete existing
contracts where it becomes clear that more cost effective delivery
mechanisms are available.
The Government agrees that it should publish as much
information as possible about how it runs its ICT and should use
this information to challenge and, where necessary, renegotiate
with providers. Measures we are taking to do this are outlined
in paragraph 4 above.
We also agree that contract information should be
published, although requirements of commercial confidentiality
will sometimes prevent us from publishing all contracts in full.
As part of the first set of the Prime Minister's transparency
commitments, published in May 2010, live public sector contract
opportunities over £10,000, closed tender documentation and
contract awards and documents have been published on the free
online Contracts Finder facility, which was launched in February
2011. Departmental compliance against meeting transparency
commitments is published monthly. Government is also working
on producing an indicative pipeline of departmental spend.
Recommendation at paragraph 30
Extremely serious allegations have been made about
the behaviour of some large suppliers. There are clearly very
strong feelings on both sides of this debate. We are not in a
position to come to a firm verdict on this matter. Having described
the situation as an "oligopoly" it is clear the Government
is not happy with the current arrangements. Whether or not this
constitutes a cartel in legal terms, it has led to the perverse
situation in which the governments have wasted an obscene amount
of public money. The Government should urgently commission an
independent, external investigation to determine whether there
is substance to these serious allegations of anti-competitive
behaviour and collusion. The Government should also provide a
trusted and independent escalation route to enable SMEs confidentially
to raise allegations of malpractice.
The Government is committed to putting an end to
the oligopoly of large suppliers that dominates central government
ICT provision. One of the ways in which large suppliers can exploit
their dominant position is by acting both as systems integrator
and delivering services within the individual 'service towers'
they control. The Government will address this issue as part
of its programme of measures to open up the way that government
does business and improve procurement processes.
The current in-depth reviews of large contracts are
looking at both pure commercial issues as well as wider contract
management areas including supply chain management. The opportunities
identified are then taken forward by the customer or if necessary
escalated to the Crown Representative for resolution. A key part
of the role of the Crown Representatives is to change the relationship
between government as a single customer and significant suppliers,
including greater communication and the requirement for consistent
and appropriate behaviour. Failure to resolve significant problems
could ultimately lead to decisions being taken on whether a contract
should be terminated to ensure understanding that behaviour that
is anti-competitive or commercially unsound is seen as unacceptable.
Key to the Government's fresh approach to procurement
is developing a more proactive approach with the market; and a
transparent and fairer system to allow small business and organisations
to compete for government contracts. The Government Procurement
Service (GPS) has successfully launched the "Dynamic Marketplace",
a flexible, easy-to-use on-line tool making it easier for Small
and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to compete directly for ICT work
under the £100,000 EU threshold. The appointment of Stephen
Allott, as the Crown Representative (CR) for SMEs has enabled
us to start to build a more strategic dialogue between government
and smaller suppliers.
In addition, on 11 February the Prime Minister and
Francis Maude, Minister for Cabinet Office, announced a new 'Mystery
Shopper' service for suppliers to alert Cabinet Office to instances
of bad practice in public procurement, enabling us to investigate
on their behalf, anonymously if required. This service is primarily
designed to investigate poor public sector practice, for example
overly long or complex Pre Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs)
and tender documents or a procurement strategy that locks out
smaller suppliers, and also to investigate cases of slow payment
from prime to sub contractor. In line with the Government's commitment
to increasing transparency, all cases, including naming the Contracting
Authority, and resolutions are published as part of the QDS on
the Cabinet Office website.
Recommendation at paragraph 34
We recommend that the Government develop a strategy
to either replace legacy systems with newer, less costly systems,
or open up the intellectual property rights to competitors. Alternative
means of dealing with legacy systems should be explored with the
widest possible range of suppliers, including SMEs.
The Government recognises that it is not alone in
facing the challenge of continuing to deliver services using both
new and older systems. However it is not possible, or wise in
certain circumstances, to move quickly to replace legacy systems,
as there are costs involved in closing down old systems as well
as procuring replacement solutions. In addition, there are often
legislative and service delivery dependencies on many of these
The development of a common ICT infrastructure, with
agreed open standards and open Application Programme Interfaces
(APIs) will allow government to put a 'wrapper' around legacy
systems so that they can continue to deliver business benefit
by operating untouched in the background, with new systems developed
and built, according to the principles of the ICT strategy, on
the other side of the wrapper. This will allow for greater flexibility
of policies and services delivered at lower cost and within a
shorter timeframe by the widest possible range of suppliers.
As legacy systems near the end of their contract
periods options for future delivery of the services they provide
will be assessed against government ICT Strategy principles and
objectives and in line with budgetary constraints.
Recommendation at paragraph 42
We take seriously the concerns expressed by many
SMEs that by speaking openly to the Government about innovative
ideas they risk losing future business particularly if they are
already in a sub-contracting relationship with an SI. The Government
should reiterate its willingness to speak to SMEs directly, and
commit to meeting SMEs in private where this is requested. We
recommend that the Government establish a permanent mechanism
that enables SMEs to bring innovative ideas directly to government
in confidence, thereby minimising the risk of losing business
with prime contractors.
The Government agrees with the Committee's recommendation.
The Government's overall aspiration is to do 25% of its business
with SMEs by the end of the Parliament (2015). The Government
has set out clearly, in announcements made by the Prime Minister
and the Minister for Cabinet Office at the 11 February SME Strategic
Supplier Summit, how it will encourage more SME involvement and
transparency over the number of contracts awarded to SMEs, including
the appointment of a Crown Representative to represent small suppliers
in government. These measures include the specific actions that
departments published on the 3rd June 2011.
The appointment of a specific Crown Representative
for SMEs has enabled us to start to build a more strategic dialogue
with SMEs and the launch of product surgeries by the Crown Representative
will give SMEs the opportunity, in confidence, to present innovative
products and services direct to a panel of senior procurement
and operational professionals from central government and the
wider public sector.
The Innovation Launch Pad was a website designed
to help SMEs pitch their business proposals direct to government
for products and services they can provide to help deliver better
value for money. Using the site, SMEs were able to submit their
proposals between Monday 28th March and Friday 22nd April (when
the site was closed to new entries). The best proposals were chosen
from over 350 submissions by civil servants through a voting process
and, after mentoring by a team of volunteer entrepreneurs, nine
SMEs were invited to present their proposals to senior commercial
leaders in government at a Product Surgery in Whitehall on 19
July. The aim was to stimulate new, open competitions in government
markets in which these suppliers will be able to participate.
The Government aims to establish departmental Product
Surgeries as the recognised route for SMEs to pitch innovative
business proposals to central government.
The need to allow innovative companies access to
government buyers is not limited just to SME's but includes all
non incumbent potential suppliers (large or small)
Recommendation at paragraph 44
Where SMEs do subcontract with a large SI, the
SI should ensure that it pays the SMEs on the same terms on which
the Government pays the large SI. We welcome the Government's
own efforts to improve the speed with which it pays its contractors,
and we encourage it to ensure its prime contractors pass these
benefits on to SMEs
The Government agrees with the Committee's recommendation
and is committed to ensuring the speedy payment of SMEs by both
government and large SIs.
On the 19 July, the Government reasserted its prompt
payment commitment to pay suppliers. Measures for monitoring prompt
payment will include:
- Departments will monitor prime
contractors performance as part of their contract management processes.
- SMEs will be encouraged to use the 'Mystery Shopper'
service to report instances where payment is slower from prime
suppliers or from the government. The results will be published
- The Crown Representatives team, which coordinates
the Government's approach to the management of key suppliers across
all departments, will strongly encourage prime contractors to
pay subcontractors in less than 30 days.
Recommendation at paragraph 46
We welcome plans for IT contracts to be broken
up to allow for more effective competition and to increase opportunities
for SMEs to win Government work. We urge the Government to create
more contracting opportunities worth much less than £100
The Government agrees with the recommendation. As
the Committee notes, the Government is committed to increasing
opportunities for SMEs to win government work under direct contracts.
The Government will produce guidance on the presumption against
government ICT projects valued at over £100m in the Autumn.
The guidance will address the following issues:
- ensuring government becomes
an intelligent and capable customer able to manage procurements
- ensuring that procurement processes do not price,
risk or resource SMEs, and other non-incumbent suppliers out of
bidding activities and
- reforming the design process to ensure that simple,
low cost solutions and existing solutions are explored before
bespoke commissioning is considered.
In addition to these measures, the requirement that
all new ICT spend above £5m, including contract extensions,
be subject to Cabinet Office as well as Treasury approval, will
encourage a trend towards smaller projects and contracts.
Recommendation at paragraph 60
We recommend that the Government investigate the
practices which seem unintentionally to disadvantage SMEs. When
contracts and pre-qualifying questions are drawn up thought must
be given to what impact they could have on the eligibility and
ability of SMEs to apply for work, and whether separate provision
should be made for SMEs. We believe it would be preferable if
the default procurement and contractual approach were designed
for SMEs, with more detailed and bespoke negotiation being required
only for more complex and large scale procurements.
The Government agrees with this recommendation and,
as part of the our efficiency and reform programme, various measures
are being implemented to achieve a more streamlined and simplified
approach to the way that government procures goods and services.
The Government recognises that PQQs have been a particular
barrier to SME participation in securing government business. The
use of PQQs to request additional information from potential suppliers
such as previous experience or track record of providing similar
goods or services to that being procured, can also stifle innovation. Central
government is committed to ensuring that the information requested
in PQQs (such as financial standing and in particular the use
of a minimum turnover threshold or insurance requirements) is
proportionate to the value and risk of the individual procurement.
Last year the Cabinet Office introduced a shortened,
simplified and standard set of core questions to be used in pre-qualification. From
1 December 2010, the simplified standard PQQ was mandated across
central government departments, and Baroness Eaton, Chair of the
Local Government Group, announced the intention of Local Government
to adopt the use of the simplified standard PQQ.
On 11 February the Prime Minister and Minister for
the Cabinet Office announced a package of measures to open up
the way that government does business. As part of these
measures government is seeking to eliminate the use of PQQs for
central government procurements under the value of £100,000.
This represents a significant shift in the way that pre-qualification
is carried out and means that procurers should be free to choose
the best route to market for their individual circumstances.
Work is also underway to move towards greater use
of the open procedure for above-threshold procurements, thereby
removing a separate early selection stage. This will allow
potential suppliers to put forward innovative proposals before
having to demonstrate previous experience.
To date 15 out of 17 central government departments
have confirmed that they have eliminated the use of PQQ for procurements
under the EU threshold for goods and services. Bids can be submitted
through the Dynamic Marketplace for EU sub-threshold purchases
without the need for SMEs to fill out PQQs.
Recommendation at paragraph 50
We welcome the efforts the Government is making
to reduce the cost it pays for IT. However the Government's plan
to act as a single buyer appears to be leading to a consolidation
towards a few large suppliers. This could act against its intention
to reduce the size of contracts and increase the number of SMEs
that it contracts with directly. We are particularly concerned
with plans to move SME suppliers to an "arm's length"
relationship with Government. The Government needs to explain
how it will reconcile its intentions to act as a single buyer,
secure value for money and reduce contract size to create more
opportunities for SMEs.
"Government's plan to act as a single buyer"
is about achieving complete spend transparency at unit cost level
and harmonising costs across departments, so that government consistently
pays the same price for similar types of goods and services. This
does not necessarily mean consolidation of all ICT spend towards
a few suppliers, but careful consideration of the optimal supply
chain for each type of ICT good or service procured.
The GPS is developing a Supplier Contract Strategy
which will look at the contracting pipeline and future ICT and
commercial offerings with specific reference to end user devices
(such as PCs, laptops and smartphones), the public services network
and the consolidation of data centres.
The government has appointed Crown Representatives,
including a Crown Representative for SMEs, to co-ordinate the
views and requirements of HMG customer departments in relationship
to suppliers. This will ensure that government requirements are
adequately represented and speaking with one voice when making
important decisions regarding supplier management, letting of
contracts and placing of procurements.
Recommendation at paragraph 57
The way procurement currently operates favours
large companies that can afford to commit the staff and resources
to navigate the convoluted processes. It also encourages the Government
to confine discussions to as few potential contractors as possible.
If the Government is serious about increasing the amount of work
it awards to SMEs it must simplify the existing processes. We
welcome the Minister's assurance that the Government is simultaneously
seeking to change the current European Directive regarding procurement
and taking steps to simplify official guidance that surrounds
the procurement process. We ask the Government to update us on
the progress it is making on both initiatives in its response
to this Report.
In its response, published on 25 July 2011, to the
European Commission's Green Paper on the modernisation of EU public
procurement policy, the government called for radical simplification
and higher thresholds, to provide greater flexibility and enable
procurers to deploy best commercial practice. Key priorities include
actions to reduce lengthy and burdensome procurement processes,
to make procurement easier for SMEs and to enable employee-led
mutuals to take over public services for a period before being
exposed to the rigours of competition. An accompanying Procurement
Policy Note PPN05/11, published on 10 August, outlines the government's
strategy for influencing the European Commission's forthcoming
proposals for revised public procurement directives.
In respect of simplifying official guidance on the
procurement process, the new 'lean' process is currently being
tested and refined on a small number of departmental pathfinder
projects covering all three OJEU procurement procedures (competitive
dialogue, restricted & open). It is due to be launched in
There are a range of key features built into the
new sourcing process that are designed to help simplify it and
- a requirement for routine engagement
with a wide and diverse range of suppliers, including SMEs, as
part of pre-procurement engagement with the market; a requirement
for increased transparency in procurement opportunities via the
publication of contract notices (adverts) on the UK government
opportunities portal, Contracts Finder as well as the European-wide
portal, Tenders Electronic Daily.
- the publication of all procurement documentation
(such as the Invitation to Tender, evaluation criteria and terms
and conditions) at the same time as the Contract Notice is published
and the introduction of simplified selection / qualification criteria.
- new and more efficient ways of carrying out negotiations
with suppliers via a time-boxed `boot camp` approach that features
parallel working rather than costly and inefficient sequential
- the requirement for departments to use web-based
e-sourcing systems to support their procurements resulting in
a standardised approach to the way in which government receives
and evaluates tenders and as a result eliminating waste and
- the introduction of transparent performance measures
covering time, cost and quality to help ensure that procurements
are run by departments in line with the lean sourcing process.
Recommendation at paragraph 64
The Government presumption in favour of smaller,
disaggregated contracts should lead to more direct contracting
with SMEs. This will require Departments to invest more effort
in managing relationships directly with SMEs meaning that more
systems integration work is performed in-house, but this will
yield longer term benefits through increased innovation and lower
costs. Ministers need to ensure their officials have the skills,
capacity and above all the willingness to deliver on ministerial
commitments to SMEs.
The Government agrees with the Committee's recommendation.
A programme of work is underway to develop the capability of procurement
staff within government departments to ensure that they are equipped
with the knowledge and skills to operate the new lean sourcing
process which, as described in our response to the PASC paragraph
57 recommendation above, includes measures to ensure that SMEs
are not disadvantaged in the procurement process. The training
is being piloted in October and will be rolled out from January
Integrating IT and over-specifying
Recommendation at paragraph 69
Government should ensure that the IT implications
of new initiatives are properly considered near the start of the
policy process on a par with the legal and financial considerations.
This should simply be an extension of thinking about how the policy
will be implemented in practice. We recommend that analysis of
these issues be included in all policy submissions to Ministers.
Recommendation at paragraph 75
We agree with our witnesses who argued that there
was no such thing as an IT project - only policy initiatives and
business programmes that use technology in their delivery. One
of the primary reasons for these project failures is a lack of
focus on the outcome and how the IT project fits into the wider
benefits the Government wants to achieve. The Government must
stop departments specifying IT solutions and ensure they specify
what outcomes they wish to achieve, within the broad technical
parameters to ensure interoperability. The market should then
be able to provide a range of possible IT solutions.
The Government agrees that there is no such thing
as an 'IT project'; there are only business projects that involve
ICT. We also agree that the IT implications of new initiatives
should be properly considered near the start of the policy process.
To this end, the Government is committed to improving the way
it delivers business change by introducing Agile project management
and delivery techniques.
In April we established for the first time a common
curriculum, delivered by Civil Service Learning, which will ensure
that every Civil Servant has the core skills needed to do their
job. It is fundamental to this approach to consider financial,
legal and ICT considerations as part of developing and implementing
The controls introduced at the start of the Coalition
Government provide an opportunity for early engagement and understanding
of all new ICT spending, including contract amendments, extensions,
feasibility and/or proof of concept studies, pilots, projects
and programmes. These require departments to demonstrate compliance
with the Government's ICT Strategy and the business benefits of
any new spending. Formal approval of new spending is required
at the normal Treasury approval stages - Strategic Outline Business
Case, Outline Business Case and Full Business Case - which ensures
that there is focus on the business outcomes that will be supported
by ICT, whenever ICT is a significant component of any project
or programme. We support the overall ambition to make delivery
and operations capability as important as policy skills in the
civil service. Also policy development musty include all operational/delivery
experts much earlier and in an iterative fashion.
Alongside improving skills and processes, as part
of its work to increase opportunities to harness innovation from
outside government, the Government is working to establish departmental
Product Surgeries as the recognised route for SMEs to pitch innovative
business proposals to central government. The Innovation &
Delivery Unit within the Government Digital Service (GDS) are
also looking to revamp the Innovation Hub, which will be
available to all relevant communities, including central and local
government, innovators, developers and SMEs. The Innovation Hub,
called DotGovLabs allows challenges to be set by, for instance,
a government department, for organisations or individuals to respond
with innovative ideas and proposals. This enables a wide community
to contribute to policy development, making the Innovation Hub
a cost-effective and accessible channel for increasing collaboration
and developing innovative solutions to policy challenges.
Challenges to using Agile
Recommendation at paragraph 87
Agile development is a powerful tool to enhance
the effectiveness and improve the outcomes of Government change
programmes. We welcome the Government's enthusiasm and willingness
to experiment with this method. The Government should be careful
not to dismiss the very real barriers in the existing system that
could prevent the wider use of agile development. We therefore
invite the Government to outline in its response how it will adapt
its existing programme model to enable agile development to work
as envisaged and how new flagship programmes will utilise improved
approaches to help ensure their successful delivery.
The Government is keen to make greater use of Agile
project and programme methodologies wherever appropriate. The
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has taken the first steps
by embedding Agile into the Universal Credit programme with the
support of small and medium enterprises (SME) specialists who
provide expertise, training curricula, coaching and professional
The Government is also working to ensure that
there is an effective methodology in place for scrutiny of Agile
development in the delivery of Government Major Projects and Programmes.
Existing assurance processes, including the Major Project Authority's
(MPA) Gateway Review, are flexible enough to assess iterative,
Agile development. The MPA is working closely with departments
and projects and programmes to ensure that the correct piece of
assurance is undertaken at the most appropriate point and that
those undertaking the assurance have sufficient knowledge and
experience of the Agile methodology.
The Government recognises that there are cultural
and behavioural hurdles to overcome in introducing Agile development,
a fact confirmed by private sector organisations that have successfully
adopted Agile as a delivery mechanism for business change. The Government
will shortly be setting up a cross-government network of
Agile champions / practitioners to establish the foundations
from which the necessary cultural and behavioural changes can
be made to adopt Agile methodologies and make them succeed.
This initiative, with the support of the Agile SME community,
will enable the adoption and application of Agile for appropriate
projects and programmes.
Recommendation at paragraph 90
The Government should examine how it can remove
barriers to agile development as an integrated part of its wider
efforts to reform the procurement process and increase the role
of SMEs. The Government will have to bear in mind the need to
facilitate agile development as it renegotiates the EU procurement
directive and revises the associated guidance.
The Government recognises that current EU procurement
routes may be best suited to set of fixed requirements that are
not agile. The Government's response to the European Commission's
Green Paper on the modernisation of EU public procurement policy
is outlined above in our response to the Committee's recommendation
at paragraph 57. The Government is committed to creating a central
commercial framework for SME Agile practitioners that all departments
can call upon for the expertise and support they require. The
Government is also committed to producing a separate framework
arrangement for the procurement of system integrators and service
providers for projects and programmes. Measures of this nature
will enable government to get to market faster with the delivery
of ICT enabled business change.
Security and Privacy
Recommendation at paragraph 99
Governments have learnt that they must secure
both personal data and data relating to national security, whilst
also guarding against gold-plating its security requirements -
which can greatly inflate costs without delivering any tangible
benefits. Over-classifying routine administrative and operational
information causes unnecessary technology and operational costs,
and prevents the public sector taking advantage of the economies
and efficiencies of commodity software and new opportunities.
It also acts as a further barrier to more effective use of SMEs
in the supply of IT goods and services. Government must do more
to demonstrate how a risk-based approach is helping achieve a
better balance in information assurance.
The Government agrees with the Committee's recommendation.
Effective security is vital to the efficient and safe conduct
of public business and the protection of personal data, but it
needs to be applied appropriately and proportionately. The Cabinet
Office is currently undertaking a thorough review of security
policy as part of the broader drive to modernise and transform
the way that government does business. This includes revisiting
the way that we value, classify and protect our assets. Where
there is scope to simplify policy in this area and reduce the
burden on departments and delivery partners, changes will be introduced.
A more straightforward approach to classifying assets should
enable greater use of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) ICT products
across government, and potentially unlock significant efficiencies.
An intelligent customer?
Recommendation at paragraph 108
Managing suppliers is as important as deciding
who to contract with in the first place. To be able to perform
both of these functions government needs the capacity to act as
an intelligent customer. This involves having a small group within
government with the skills to both procure and manage a contract
in partnership with its suppliers. Currently the Government seems
unable to strike the right balance between allowing contractors
enough freedom to operate and ensuring there are appropriate controls
and monitoring in-house. The Government needs to develop the skills
necessary to fill this gap. This should involve recruiting more
IT professionals with experience of the SME sector to help deliver
the objective of greater SME involvement.
The Government agrees with the Committee's recommendation.
One of the work streams of the ICT capability strategy, to be
published in October 2011, will be to develop a common terminology
and skills model for the ICT functions retained in house.
One of the core roles within the Crown Representative
function is the co-ordination of the views and requirements of
HMG customer departments. This will ensure that government requirements
are adequately represented, speaking with one voice, when undertaking
important decisions regarding the management of suppliers, letting
of contracts and placing of procurements.
The government notes that lack of requisite commercial
skills are equally problematic; technical expertise alone is not
Recommendation at paragraph 112
The strategic importance of Government developing
and maintaining an intelligent customer function has been repeatedly
highlighted throughout our inquiry. We are very supportive of
the Government's efforts to develop its own talent in-house through
the Technology in Business Fast Stream. The Government should
use this scheme as a basis for a strengthened IT Profession within
Government. It must ensure that it aligns the training curriculum
with its ICT Strategy and wider developments in the world of technology
outside of Government.
The ICT Capability Strategy will set out a blueprint
to show how career development paths in the ICT profession and
curricula fit together as a whole - including the Technology in
Business Fast Stream (TiB). This will increase the capability
of ICT professionals at all levels in the public sector and reduce
expenditure on external expertise. Government will establish a
strong talent pipeline of successors for senior posts; increase
lateral development moves for staff with high potential; and ensure
continued recruitment and retention of graduates through the TiB
fast stream, averaging 20 per year by September 2014.
Spread of skills
Recommendation at paragraph 115
Knowledge about how modern information systems
and technology can be used to improve public services should not
be restricted to the IT profession - this knowledge is essential
to the work of all senior civil servants responsible for designing
and delivering policy. The Government should explore how departmental
boards and senior officials can best benefit from professional
training and support in technology policy. A systematic programme
to improve these skills across the senior civil service would
also help support the Government's aim of ensuring public services
become 'digital by default' by improving the integration of technology
and policy throughout the policy-making process.
The Government agrees with the Committee's recommendation.
The Government is exploring with senior officials how we can best
develop training and support for the senior civil service in technology
policy. A progress update will be provided by the end of the year.
Recommendation at paragraph 117
We welcome the Government's intention to strengthen
the role of Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) by ensuring that they
stay in post until an appropriate break point in the project.
Wherever possible SROs should stay in post to oversee the delivery
of the benefits for which they are accountable and which the project
was intended to deliver. It should be in Ministers' interests
to ensure that this happens, and Ministers should take a personal
interest in the leadership of politically sensitive programmes.
Recommendation at paragraph 118
We are concerned that despite the catalogue of
costly project failures rarely does anyone - suppliers, officials
or ministers - seem to be held to account. It is therefore important
that, when SROs do move on they should remain accountable for
those decisions taken on their watch, and that Ministers should
be held accountable when this does not happen.
Recommendation at paragraph 124
Ministers should reconsider the governance arrangements
for their departments' information systems and associated IT.
Whilst it may not always be appropriate for the CIO to be a board
level appointment, we think that more department boards should
include CIOs given the essential role that information and technology
play in delivering Departments' services. Where CIOs are not on
a departmental board, another member of their Board should have
proven expertise in, and act as a champion for, information and
The Government ICT Strategy clearly sets out the
expectation that delivery leads will be held to account through
personal performance objectives and implementation plans for their
areas, SROs will be expected to remain in post until completion
or a suitable break. It also encourages boards to hold ministers
and senior officials to account on a regular basis for the progress
of ICT projects and programmes and delivery of expected benefits.
The Government also agrees that the level of authority
and performance of the SRO role should be elevated further up
the department and supported by Accounting Officers within their
overall business responsibilities. This issue will be addressed
as part of the engagement with departments to manage the government's
Major Projects Portfolio, with the aim of raising the capability,
credibility and profile of SROs through Accounting Officer nomination
of SROs and ensuring they are accountable to Parliament. The MPA
has already set up a government Project and Programme Management
(PPM) Community working group to drive this work and to establish
an agreed definition of the SRO role across Whitehall and to support
the development of the government Major Projects Leadership Academy,
which will be launched in 2012.
The Government agrees that it is sometimes, but not
always, appropriate for CIOs to be on department boards. When
not on the board, CIOs are expected to have mature conversations
with their boards to ensure that they have an understanding of
ICT so that this becomes part of the business case discussions
Public data release
Recommendation at paragraph 135
Publicly releasing data has the potential to transform
public services radically by allowing individuals to use data
in ways most useful to them, rather than having to use and access
the data in a way prescribed by the provider. We welcome the Government's
commitment routinely to release public data. We recommend that
the Government should release live, as well as historic, data
sets where this is possible and that in future its information
systems are designed to do so by default.
Recommendation at paragraph 142
Government should omit references to proprietary
products and formats in procurement notices, stipulating business
requirements based on open standards. The Government should also
ensure that new projects, programmes and contracts, and where
possible existing projects and contracts, mandate open public
data and open interfaces to access such data by default.
The Government agrees with the Committee's observation
that releasing public data has the potential to transform public
services. Open standards and interfaces are vital in order to
achieve this, and a key component of the ICT Strategy is to mandate
agreed open technical and data standards across government.
The government has already made over 6,000 datasets
available via data.gov.uk, such as the COINS spending data, government
contracts, Civil Service job titles and salaries, and new items
of local government spending over £500. In the near future
the Government will release datasets on key services, including
the NHS, education, crime and justice and transport.
In addition to this, the Government is proposing
changes to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to make real
the intention of creating the new 'Right to Data'. The amendments
form part of the Protection of Freedoms Bill which was introduced
to the House of Commons on 11 February 2011.
The Government published its Open Data Consultation,
Making Open Data Real: A Public Consultation, on August 4 2011,
which, at its core, aims to transform public services in the UK,
embedding a culture of openness and transparency within them.
In Making Open Data Real, proposals are set out for
establishing an enhanced 'right to data' - creating stronger rights
for individuals, businesses and others to obtain, use and reuse
data from public service providers.
Making Open Data Real represents the first step towards
setting out our direction of travel at a strategic level. We want
to hear the public's views and we will work with data providers
and the data re-user community through data.gov.uk to set future
standards for data release.
Recommendation at paragraph 136
Bringing in outside developers to demonstrate
to departments the potential of the information they already hold
is an exciting way to innovate and provide new tools and services
for the Government. We applaud the departments that have already
been involved in "hack days" and recommend that all
departments work in a similar way.
The Government is determined to ensure that the opportunities
for innovation which Open Data creates are fully exploited and
acknowledges the Committee's observation that transformation in
the public services can be achieved by utilising expertise within
the developer community. As is made clear in Making Open Data
Real, there is growing evidence of the cost effectiveness of stimulating
innovation based on data reuse through setting up competitive
challenges, or 'hack days', for example, Challenge.gov in the
US and Open Data Challenge in Europe.
In Making Open Data Real the Government has taken
the step of consulting on the extent to which we will need to
support and stimulate the development of an effective information
marketplace in order to deliver the benefits of Open Data, including
transformation of public services. This Government believes innovative
use of Open Data will lead to a culture change in public services,
embedding transparency and openness, and stimulating the economy,
fostering the development of new services and products that will
transform the public and private sector, creating jobs and opportunity
The Government does not have all of the answers as
to how best to implement this agenda and that is why we want to
hear from the public, the business community and other interested
parties through the public consultation, as to how we can best
go about establishing a culture of openness and transparency across
the public services.
Recommendation at paragraph 137
Government must continue to address the issue
of public data access by removing licences from its own data and
by encouraging publicly funded organisations to do the same. Placing
this information into the public domain for free is in the long-term
interest of data owners, users and the wider economy.
The Government is pleased the Committee acknowledges
that it has already taken significant steps, i.e. through the
Open Government Licence and data.gov.uk, to make public data more
freely available, and agrees that wider and free access to public
data is in the long-term interest of data owners, users and the
In Making Open Data Real we have set out proposals
for taking the commitment to make more public data available for
free, as set out under the terms of the Open Government Licence,
one step further, as we have set out a series of proposals which
further aim to address issues of access to public data, including
inconsistencies in the volume of data which public bodies make
The Government is committed to ensuring not only
the data that government holds is free and more readily available,
but also data from a wider range of public bodies. We are consulting
on the definition of both 'Open Data' and 'Public Services' in
Making Open Data Real - with the aim of ensuring that more data
is released by public services/bodies and that this data is available
for free, for re-use and that it can be redistributed by anyone
under the terms of the Open Government Licence.
The proposals set out in Making Open Data Real represent
the first step towards government establishing a stronger presumption
in favour of the publication of data than that which currently
exists. The Government is consulting on, among other proposals:
introducing a new requirement that all public bodies and providers
of public services proactively publish data about the services
they deliver. This is very much a part of our drive to make public
data 'Open by Default'. In order to ensure an enhanced 'right
to data' is brought to life, we will also consult on how best
to make this real, including formalising the Public Data Principles
articulated by the Public Sector Transparency Board.
Recommendation at paragraph 141
Adherence to open standards is important if the
Government is to make data more readily accessible. It will also
help the Government avoid lock-in to any one provider. We welcome
attempts to identify the open standards to be used across departments.
However, we are concerned that the recent Government survey indicates
that the current understanding of open standards is incomplete.
The Government should prioritise the adoption of a set of core
open standards which focus on interoperability between systems,
making data available through open interfaces and formats that
allow meaningful public access.
The Government recognises that open standards are
vital in helping to avoid lock-in to a particular supplier or
product and ensuring that data is portable and reusable. The UK
Government Open Standards Survey focussed primarily on technical
standards that support the interoperability of government's ICT
infrastructure. The survey closed in May and the results are
currently being analysed. A draft suite of mandated open technical
standards will be published for formal consultation in the autumn
2011. The first wave of compulsory open standards will include
the relevant open standard for all government documents so that
citizens are able to read government documents with the standardised
document format reader of their choice.
As part of the implementation of the Government ICT
strategy, an Open Source implementation Group, System Integrator
Forum and Open Source Advisory Panel have been established and
have begun to break down the technical and cultural barriers to
increase the usage of open source solutions across government.
Personal data ownership
Recommendation at paragraph 156
Giving control of personal data to the individual
has the potential to improve data quality while reducing both
costs and risks. Individuals are used to controlling their own
data with private sector companies, such as Amazon and with utility
companies. Moving to a model where the citizen maintains their
own personal data with an independent, trusted provider and then
can choose whether to authorise the sharing of that information
with other organisations is an ambitious vision that will need
to be trialled extensively. We also recognise that there may be
legal constraints and concerns about privacy which could act as
a barrier to implementing such a radical reform. We therefore
recommend that the Government, working with the Information Commissioner,
review potential barriers to the personal data model and explore
the ways in which this model could best be developed.
Recommendation at paragraph 157
We welcome the work being done to create an integrated
identity assurance trust model for simplifying access to services.
We suggest that Government consider integrating this work with
the personal data model. This could represent an important step,
placing responsibility and control of personal data with citizens
in their interactions with public and other online services.
The Government agrees that barriers to giving people
control over their personal data should be reviewed. In March
2011 a cross government Identity Assurance programme team was
established to develop an identity assurance solution for government
digital services. The programme is developing with support from
the key delivery departments, and the private sector the design
for a consistent approach to digital identity assurance across
the public sector. The design supports the need for personal
privacy, help to reduce fraud and aid a shift towards more online
activity by government.
The programme is working closely with the Information
Commissioner's Office to review the legal implications of the
design and the implications on personal data and privacy. It
is also working with representatives of the privacy lobby to ensure
personal privacy is considered as a fundamental component of the
new approach to digital identity assurance.
The development of the programme will be managed
by the Cabinet Office with the design demonstrated by departments
through major initiatives such as DWP's Universal Credits, HMRC's
One Click and Real Time Information, HealthSpace and the Skills
Funding Agency Customer Identification project.
As well as giving control to the individual of their
personal data held by the public sector, the Government is working
with leading businesses and consumer groups to give individuals
more access to and control over data that companies hold about
them. This 'mydata' project aims to enable consumers to view and
then use their own personal transaction data in a way that is
portable and safe and deliver benefits in terms of data quality
and cost and risk reduction. The project is also working closely
with consumer bodies, privacy groups and lawyers to ensure that
privacy and legal issues are addressed. The 'mydata' project is
working closely with the identity assurance programme team to
ensure that there is a strong relationship between identity assurance
and the ability of a citizen to control their personal data.
User engagement in service design
Recommendation at paragraph 162
It is self-evident that the people using systems,
be they frontline officials or members of the public are best
placed to provide suggestions on how to improve them. User feedback
should be directly integrated into the design of new systems and
the development of existing systems and processes to ensure continuous
improvement. We recommend that Departments exploit the internet
and other channels to enable users to provide direct online feedback
both in the design of services and in their ongoing operation
The Government agrees with the recommendation and
will exploit digital channels to build better bridges between
government and citizens through the use of online consultations
and greater use of social media.
Many departments are already actively using user-centred
design tools and principles and ensuring that they have detailed
customer input at the start of the service design. Examples of
departments who are engaging in user centred design include DWP
for the Universal Credit. DWP has created a customer immersion
centre where customers - be they claimants or operations users
- will critique each part of the user experience as it is developed.
Other recent online services such as the Skills Funding Agency
for Next Step (National Career Service) and the Driving Standards
Agency for driving tests where improvements based on detailed
user testing on the current live services are currently being
Users of the current Directgov site are provided
with the ability to rate and comment on every article - eliciting
40,000 ratings and 10,000 comments a week across the breadth of
government services. This feedback is passed onto all relevant
departments and is used by many of them to improve the articles
and services, supported by the customer input.
The creation of a single web domain will provide
the platform from which government will deliver better public
services digitally by default, and will be user-centric in design.
The GDS has been set up to meet the challenge of delivering the
type and quality of online services that people now demand.
Open delivery of online Government services
Recommendation at paragraph 167
Government should open up online service delivery
to non-public sector organisations and explore ways in which public
services can be offered through other websites, applications,
devices and providers. This should be developed by providing an
open Government platform around which others can innovate and
improve, built on the principles of open data, open standards
and open source.
Recommendation at paragraph 168
In doing so Government will need to address issues
of liability for the external delivery of Government services.
Moving to a model where third parties provide online Government
services will require clarity about where citizens should turn
for help when they encounter difficulties, as well as clarifying
who is accountable for service delivery.
The Government agrees with these recommendations.
We are committed to delivering better public services digitally
by default and the GDS has been established to transform government
digital services, ensuring the Government offers world-class digital
products that meet people's needs. The current areas of work
for GDS include:
- Single Domain for Government
- GDS is developing a prototype "beta" of a single
domain for government, which will include a public beta of citizen
facing content and a private beta of a shared corporate publishing
platform, as well as a first draft "Global Experience Language"
for the gov.uk domain. The domain will be built on the basis of
open APIs and focussing on delivering only what needs to be provided
by Government, not what can be provided elsewhere.
- Directgov - Directgov is the current single website
for access and information about government services in the UK.
Currently the content of the Directgov site is available to anyone
who wishes to use it in five open standard formats. There are
currently over 450 subscribed users of the Directgov syndication
web services, which enable subscribed users to make Directgov
news, articles and government contacts available through their
own websites, intranets, widgets or applications. The new single
domain will build on this approach to ensure open standards are
- Digital by Default and Assisted Digital GDS is
working with Departments to ensure that they deliver services
digitally by default, in the places and forms that users want
to access them, however, in doing so assisted digital approaches
will be in place to ensure that there are appropriate forms of
support for people who are unable, for whatever reason, to access
or use digital services.
- Digital Engagement - improving the way citizens
can interact with government online through collaboration, conversation
and consultation. This includes freeing up information and facilitating
the use of new platforms and tools, such as third party communities
and sites, to inform citizens and listen to their views as well
as introducing digital tools into the day to day working of government.
In working with departments GDS will consider how
to ensure the security of personal data submitted through online
government services, including those services delivered by other
organisations. When opening up the market for services delivered
by others on behalf of government, issues of trust, security,
accountability and redress will be of paramount consideration.