Independent advice? Not from this bunch!

Re-posted from archive of infinite ideas machine 2004:

Thanks to SpyBlog for (my) first heads-up on yesterday’s announcement of PA Consulting being awarded the ID Card scheme “Development Partner” contract by UK Home Office, also covered by The Register, BBC News, and others.

Any and all of the above are more informative the less-than-forthcoming Home Office Press Release, repeated on PA Consulting’s site.

The runner up – Deloitte – must be upset, especially as they were still in the running last week when The Scotsman revealed in its article, Advice on ID cards came from firm ‘set to make millions’, that the company had seconded one of its staff to work at the Home Office advising on the planned ID card network from September until March…

But, as John Lettice kindly pointed out to me, this is not so much about Deloitte trying to pull a fast one as the fact that “ is so addicted to getting free help from the industry that there is no way it can make a measured purchase decision about anything”. Secondments are apparently common practice in UK government IT, and PA Consulting themselves have in the past ‘lent’ members of staff to, e.g. the eEnvoy’s department.

All the big players do it, so is there any wonder that the government often displays such wild enthusiasm for ‘magic bullet’ IT solutions? Or that the smartcard agenda is so deeply embedded in government thinking that, ID cards or not, we are ploughing ahead with a ‘chipped’ future with scant regard for the long term social or financial consequences?

I’ll leave you with a quote from an article written back in 2000 by the Home Office’s new ‘Development Partner’:

“Integrating customer access is a radical proposition, but as a focus for effort it offers the promise of being one of the single most visible and effective initiatives in improving public services yet undertaken by this Government, and possibly any other since the Second World War. And it could be rolled out in the lifetime of a single Parliament. All this, and it would actually save public money. If New Labour is serious about empowering the customer of public services and of adopting radical measures to get more from less, then focusing on customer access is one of the answers.” – PA Consulting Group, ‘E-nable the customer to join-up government’ [full paper no longer available online]

No agendas there, then!

UPDATED 25/5/04: a timely reminder by Philip Johnston in the Telegraph of PA Consulting’s shaky track record re. the ‘shambolic’ start of the Criminal Records Bureau in 2002. Remember when a whole pile of kids couldn’t go back to school after the summer hols because their new teachers hadn’t been police checked? Thank you, PA! And (for the record) Capita, too.

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