Some days you wish you'd been proved wrong

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan December 5, 2013
A turf war between the UK Department for Work and Pensions and the Cabinet Office over IT systems development appears to be over. But is it for the best?

Everyone likes being right of course, but sometimes there are occasions when you wish you weren't.

Yesterday I flagged up what I'd been told was a turf war between the UK's Department for Work and Pensions and the Cabinet Office over the fate of the flagship Universal Credit's IT systems.

With the current systems deemed unfit for purpose and delays announced to the deadlines for the benefits scheme, the story as we reported it was that while the Cabinet Office wanted to hand over responsibility for rebooting the IT side to the Government Digital Service (GDS), the DWP was resisting and wanted to rescue the work that's already been done by its existing IT suppliers.

I wrote:

The latter, according to my admittedly unsubstantiated source, wants GDS essentially taking charge; the former wants to cover its proverbial and plough on with its current suppliers as getting out of existing contractual arrangements would risk the possibility of (a) legal action by the suppliers and (b) expose some uncomfortable truths about the shortcomings of the contract management at play here.

Today Computer Weekly has confirmed that GDS has pulled out of further involvement, seemingly with the backing of the Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude.

According to CW Editor Bryan Glick:

Computer Weekly sources said that disagreements over the new approach to IT development, announced yesterday by DWP, has caused GDS to step back from direct involvement, with all new IT work being handled within the department.

Backing this up is a statement from the Cabinet Office, confirming:

Following the delivery of Strategic Proof of Concept in October 2013, a team within DWP will now take the digital solution forward, led by the department’s digital leader.

That's Kevin Cunnington, former global head of online at Vodafone, who was appointed as the DWP's first director general for digital transformation back in October.

Given developments this week, Cunnington's clearly going to have a lot on his plate.

What all this means for the existing IT suppliers - Accenture, BT, HP and IBM - remains to be seen.

But the departmental turf war appears to have been won by the withdrawal from the field of one of the main players.

What happens next to Universal Credit's IT programme is now down to the DWP itself.


Have DWP civil servants heard the expression 'Be careful what you wish for" ?