HM Revenue and Customs has appointed former energy and telecoms executive Daljit Rehal as its new chief digital and information officer.
Rehal joins from British Gas parent company Centrica, where he worked for nine years as global digital, data and services director. Prior to that, he spent more than a decade in the telecoms industry, including stints at Three, Virgin Media, and TalkTalk.
The HMRC position represents the first public sector role in Rehal’s 30-year career.
The incoming tech chief will replace Mark Denney, who was appointed as interim CDIO in November 2019. Denney’s short-term recruitment was intended to “provide continuity” while the tax agency prepared to commence the process of seeking a permanent successor to Jacky Wright, whose two-year stint as digital leader came to an end in October 2019.
Denney’s tenure may have been short but, given the department’s major role in delivering coronavirus-response programmes such as the furlough scheme – while enabling 90% of departmental staff to work remotely – it has certainly been eventful.
“I would like to pay tribute and thank Mark Denney for his work as interim director general,” said HMRC chief executive Jim Harra. “His work in the last few months in delivering the coronavirus support schemes has been a particular highlight and his leadership has helped the department deliver for millions of people affected by the pandemic.”
The recruitment of a permanent CDIO began in May, when HMRC published a job ad for the post, which comes with a basic pay packet of up to £200,000, plus a potential 30% bonus.
The role will require Rehal to directly manage 13 staff, and oversee the work of 5,250 people in total. This figure comprises the 750 employees of the department’s in-house IT company RCDTS, as well as 2,800 civil servants and 1,700 contractors.
The CDIO brief also comes with responsibility for an annual budget of more than £1bn, including £725bn to maintain core functions and services and £300m to dedicate to strategic investments in support of “significant transformation” across the department.
The tax agency said that Rehal brings to the CDIO role significant experience in agile methods and organisational change, as well as emerging technology areas such as big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
Rehal said: “I’m really excited to be joining HMRC at a time of such unique challenges and opportunities and continuing the journey to becoming a truly modern and progressive tax authority fit for the 21st century. I look forward to building on the excellent work of my predecessors Mark Denney and Jacky Wright.”
The appointment of a permanent CDIO comes shortly after HMRC announced definitive plans to press on with the rollout of its flagship Making Tax Digital programme. All VAT returns that are not currently digitised will be required to switch to the MTD platform from 1 April 2022, with self-assessment income tax returns for figures over £10,000 to follow in 2023.
Ensuring the continued efficacy of IT systems at the UK border – including the new Customs Declaration Service – will be another major tech task for the department next year, following the conclusion of the EU exit transition period.
Sam Trendall is the editor of Civil Servce World's sister title PublicTechnology, where a version of this story first appeared.