Nelson moots transition plans to ease centralisation of procurement
Department of Work and Pensions chief information officer Andy Nelson has suggested that three-year transition plans could be introduced to help departments move onto central purchasing frameworks.
Giving evidence last week at a Public Accounts Committee session examining the impact of the government’s ICT savings and procurement initiatives, Nelson said that tensions can arise if the centre pushes hard for participation in a central buying framework whose timescales clash with departments’ own operational needs.
“A way to help that is to look forward over two to three years and for departments and the Cabinet Office to create a plan of how this would be adopted,” he said. “So you would have an armwrestle around that plan and its timeliness and measuring performance against that plan, rather than bumping up against the next transaction or next timeline.”
During the same session Mike Greatwich, commercial director of Ministry of Defence agency Defence Equipment & Support, voiced his concerns about losing procurement expertise as more buying is pushed through central frameworks.
“Let’s say we switched to a centrally-procured service and we no longer have our own team in the department, what happens if that service fails?” he said. “I would no longer have procurement expertise to put a deal in place.”
Meanwhile Stephen Kelly, chief operating officer at the Cabinet Office, told the committee that the government’s IT policy is mitigating against the signing of long-term contracts and the use of the biggest companies in the IT industry. “Our business model as a customer is on a collision course with some of the old IT oligopoly, where they have almost an addiction to revenue and long-term contracts,” he commented.
Kelly also slammed existing government IT systems as “poor”. He said: “I came in this morning… and it took seven minutes for me to boot up: that is three days a year I waste waiting for that machine to come on.”
Mike Bracken, executive director at the Government Digital Service and government chief technology officer, told the committee: “The one thing we have to do more than anything else is deliver. The delivery deficit we have in Whitehall is so large [and] unless we get the trust of the end user that we can deliver, then the mandate falls down.”