A group of MPs has criticised the government for failing to investigate allegations of IT supplier collusion that were identiifed in a report last year.
The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) issued its investigation into government IT procurement practices, entitled "A recipe for rip-offs", in July 2011. This week, the PASC commended the government’s "generally constructive and proactive response" to the report.
However, the PASC expressed its disappointment that the government has not addressed the "alleged anti-competitive and collusive behaviour by some large suppliers" highlighted in the report. The PASC had recommended that the government should launch an independent investigation of the claims.
At the time, UK IT trade body Intellect said that it was "outraged" by the allegation. "I’ve worked in and for this industry for 35 years, and I am completely convinced this collusion does not exist," Intellect’s director general John Higgins told Information Age.
Today, the PASC also said it remains "unconvinced" by the government’s approach to legacy systems. The "wrapper" approach to legacy applications, wherein old but essential systems are kept running with new ICT infrastructure, is too costly, the PASC said, and reduces scope for flexible service provision and expansion.
"Although dealing with legacy issues has up-front costs and risks, these risks can be mitigated by dual running of old and new systems, and staged migration to the new systems," the PASC response says. "Risks associated with maintaining ageing systems indefinitely are hard to quantify or to mitigate."
It praised the government’s response on topics such as IT skills shortages and ‘digital by default’ service provision, but suggested that more could be done.
Government officials should be rewarded for using social media and digital channels to provide services and information, the PASC suggested. The committee points out that user feedback on government portals is a valuable source of free data on service performance.