A decade after breaking HMRC’s Aspire deal, the Publish Home of work scandal exposes glaring similarities

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HM Earnings & Customs by hook or by crook broke from its £800m a twelve months Aspire contract in 2016 – and the reasons maintain parallels with the Publish Home of work scandal. Will authorities ever be taught?


  • Louise McCarthy

Published: 12 Feb 2024

Ten years ago, as IT transformation director at HM Earnings & Customs (HMRC), I led the personnel that successfully renegotiated the £800m per twelve months Aspire outsourcing contract with Capgemini and Fujitsu, saving taxpayers over £200m and dismantling a intention riddled with inefficiencies and hidden costs.

But here we are again, facing a scandal sharp Fujitsu and the Publish Home of work’s Horizon IT intention, this time the effect lives had been destroyed which ability that of substandard utility and negligent oversight. The ask of we must always quiz ourselves is: why, after a decade and thousands and thousands wasted, has nothing the truth is modified?

The Aspire contract used to be suffering from connected points to Horizon – opaque pricing, questionable performance, and a lack of accountability. We fought worrying to damage free from that contract, worrying transparency and fee for money. While we finished success, it looks to be the lessons realized had been speedy forgotten.

The Publish Home of work Horizon scandal is a tragic reminder of the devastating consequences that can occur when abilities contracts are awarded and managed with out upright scrutiny. Subpostmasters, the lifeblood of our communities, lost the entire lot which ability that of a flawed intention and a convention of silence. This can no longer be swept below the rug again.

The public inquiry underway is making a thorough and unbiased investigation into the Horizon scandal, keeping all parties to blame for his or her roles on this injustice. Nonetheless we also need systemic commerce within authorities procurement, ensuring transparency, fairness, and sturdy oversight all the plan in which thru the total lifecycle of IT contracts.

It is some distance time to damage the cycle of negligence and wasted taxpayer money. We must always be taught from the previous and withhold ourselves to blame for creating a intention that protects every public funds and the livelihoods of of us who count on them.

Procurement pitfalls

I’ve witnessed first-hand the pitfalls of public sector procurement relying on gigantic, single-offer contracts. The Publish Home of work Horizon scandal, with its echoes of the Aspire contract I helped dismantle at HMRC a decade ago, exposes a systemic order that calls for speedy attention.

While we had a victory, it looks to be the lessons realized had been fleeting. Horizon exposed how relying on a single vendor breeds negligence, fosters complacency, and by hook or by crook, harms the very of us authorities would possibly per chance per chance maintain to tranquil offer protection to.

The basic ask of remains – has authorities procurement the truth is modified?

Abet in 2012, HMRC faced conflicting directives – decrease costs, modernise our programs, but quit away from upsetting suppliers. It felt like an very no longer going balancing act. Nonetheless even then, we saw the aptitude for innovation and the price of smaller, nimbler corporations. The Aspire renegotiation aimed to damage the mildew, permitting extra SMEs to contribute.

Has Brexit stifled this growth? Has it further entrenched gigantic intention integrators, limiting innovation and competition? Are they tranquil prioritising asserting legacy programs rather than embracing recordsdata-driven, microservices architectures that minimise dependence on outdated-common IT?

The acknowledge looks to be self-evident.

The Publish Home of work debacle exemplifies the ongoing failure to be taught from previous mistakes. We can no longer continue throwing money at monolithic suppliers who leer taxpayers as their meal designate. A systemic overhaul of public sector procurement is wished, including:

  • Ending the reliance on single-offer contracts. Support competition and innovation by fostering a diverse ecosystem of suppliers, particularly SMEs.
  • Prioritise transparency and accountability. Involve all stakeholders in decision-making, enforce sturdy oversight, and withhold all parties to blame for outcomes.
  • Focal level on recordsdata and microservices. Damage away from legacy programs, embrace decreasing-edge abilities, and empower modern solutions that pressure efficiency and cost reduction.

The Publish Home of work scandal is a warning sign. We can no longer manage to pay for to let history repeat itself. It is some distance time to damage the cycle of wasted taxpayer money and make a procurement intention that serves the general public, no longer the interests of privileged suppliers.

Louise McCarthy used to be IT transformation director at HMRC from 2009 to 2012, and subsequently fulfilled an analogous role at Aviva, Specsavers, the European Monetary institution for Reconstruction and Development and HSBC. She is now a non-govt director and board advisor for a chain of corporations.

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