Labour: Govt Digital Service’s procurement stance is ‘divisive’

The Government Digital Service’s (GDS’s) approach to procurement and project management is “divisive”, according to Chi Onwurah, Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister for digital government.

By Joshua.Chambers

23 Sep 2013

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Speaking at a fringe event during the Labour Party conference on Monday, Onwurah said that the Cabinet Office – and the GDS in particular – is “divisive” because they’ve made ICT procurement about “small business versus big business”.

The government has criticised big IT firms, and introduced measures to support procurement from SMEs. But Onwurah argued that “what we’ve got to do is look at [procurement] as being more complementary, because anybody that works for a small business knows that large contracts with large businesses, in ongoing procurement contracts as part of the supply chain, can be a really important means not only of getting revenue but also of upping skills and reputation.”

“Rather than looking at a divisive, us versus them, small versus large [approach], government needs to be setting the incentives to support collaboration.”

Onwurah also criticised the GDS’s approach to project management. “One of the achievements of this government has been to make ICT project management divisive and political, because they’re prioritising using agile rather than using waterfall as an ICT project management tool.”

“But my advice for digital government would be to look as technology as an enabler, rather than a thing in itself. Look at the outcomes, rather than particular categories of supplier or technology or of project management techniques,” she said.

The Cabinet Office commented: “SMEs are a key driver for our economic growth, but in the past it was far too difficult for them to win business with government because of unnecessary and bureaucratic procurement procedures.

“We want to have a highly competitive market, access to innovation, and to drive growth by working with businesses of all sizes.”

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