Government CTO Liam Maxwell discusses centralisation

In part one of CIO UK's Liam Maxwell interview, the Government CTO discussed the C-level shake-up in Whitehall, G-Cloud and SME vendors. In part two of the series, Maxwell spoke about centralisation, exemplar services and cuts.

"The Government wishes to develop 23 exemplar services from the seven major Whitehall departments which will transform into new or re-designed digital services, beginning in April 2013 for implementation by March 2015," Maxwell says. Of the 600 government transactional services, 49 account for 99% of all of the transactions that are made with citizens.

Each of the seven departments has identified exemplar services of over 100,000 transactions per year for digitisation.

The exemplar services include:

At the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS):

1. Online management of intellectual property rights;

2. BIS redundancy payments;

3. BIS Land Registry digital delivery.

At the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA):

The Common Agricultural Policy Delivery Programme, which aims to make it more efficient and easier to administer payments to farmers.

At the Department for Transport's DVLA Integrated Enquiry Platform:

Creating a new service for users to cover the motor insurance industry and driver enquiries.

And the Department for Work and Pensions' services:

Managing Universal Credit and Carers' Allowance,.

The other departments involved are Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. Their new and re-designed digital services involve making it easier and cheaper, for example, to file a self-assessment tax form to HMRC; and to provide travellers via the Home Office's e-gates service with "a secure and convenient self-service process when crossing borders."

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is developing new digital services to make it easier to make fee payments online, to book prison visits, to make it less cumbersome and quicker to apply for a lasting power of attorney. The MoJ's civil claims service is also being re-designed.

Need to centralise

Inevitably the current approach is leading to an increasing amount of centralisation. Maxwell says that centralisation is great to implement in some areas, but in others there is a need to follow more of a local approach.

By centralising Crown Representatives, the government procurement body, he says you "get a common Crown customer experience for suppliers and the government doesn't receive different rates for similar IT solutions -- and this means that we can identify and secure the best price".

"Crothers (the government chief procurement officer) has been doing a fantastic job by saving money as he's managed to obtain a better service and relationships from suppliers," Maxwell says. He adds that the Crown Representatives have managed to re-negotiate a number of supplier contracts resulting in APS800 million savings.

"It's not all about driving decision-making from the centre, but it is about better expenditure control and be able to have better relationships with suppliers, and so we don't centralise everything as there has to be a balance between autonomy and centralisation," he says.

"The National Audit Office acknowledges that our ICT reforms and spending controls saved the taxpayer APS316 million last year alone, and savings will go north of APS400 million this by applying the ICT strategy to what we are doing -- this is folding money, real savings that are independently audited."

In January 2013 the Cabinet Office has said that job cuts will account for 78% of the APS1.7 billion savings that its digital strategy will make.

Maxwell says his team is now "focused on the next 400 days to create the digital government services and programmes, and get to the stage where we have helped government departments to become digital exemplars as the future of government isn't about IT because it's about digital technology."

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