The centre cannot hold…
Despite attempts to force government departments to work together, the “age old tension” between Whitehall and the Cabinet Office continues – according to an annual report by the Public Accounts Committee.
In its bird’s eye view of departmental working, the committee said it still sees issues where departments repeatedly don’t do what they have been told or asked to do by the centre.
The report cited the lack of buy-in by departments to shared service centres.
“In this case the Cabinet Office did not intervene in a timely and effective manner… in part because it had no clear mandate, for example, to instruct departments to keep to the migration timetable but, also, because it did not see this as its role.”
It was also critical of the Cabinet Office for taking too long to consolidate and co-ordinate its alphabet soup of agencies that are involved in protecting Britain in cyberspace. “In this case we concluded processes for recording departmental personal data breaches are inconsistent and dysfunctional.”
The National Audit Office recently slammed the government for its chaotic infosec practices, which have cost it £300m and resulted in 9,000 data breaches.
“The question of who has a grip of the whole system of Whitehall government has plagued successive governments,” said the report.
An analysis by The Register revealed that government departments are winning significantly more exemptions to splash the cash on expensive IT projects since the departure of former Cabinet Office minister Francis “Mad Frankie” Maude last year.
Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Meg Hillier said: “After my second year as Chair I am increasingly concerned about the long term accountability of senior civil servants.
“The game of musical chairs starts as one Permanent Secretary moves on and they all change jobs in the system. And few are in post long enough to have a vested interest in the long term aims of their department or a project. And there is the age old tension between a department and central Whitehall through the Cabinet Office.”
Universal Credit and HMRC’s plans to overhaul its Aspire IT contract – the biggest in Europe – were outlined as being two areas of concern. As was the Home Office’s Emergency Services Network.