SOPCom

 

by David Moss

December 2008

 

Speaking on 16 December 2008 to Intellect, Jacqui Smith (the Home Secretary) said:

… Safeguards, openness, proportionality and common sense.

For the public to have confidence that we will protect them and protect their rights, it is our responsibility as a government to ensure that these standards apply even as technology evolves.

... I am equally clear that we have to measure these efforts [robust powers to tackle crime and disorder] against our standards for safeguards, openness, proportionality and common sense.

... I will continue to put safeguards and openness, a sense of proportion and above all common sense, at the heart of everything we do.

Her speech is entitled Protecting rights, protecting society and, taken on its own, is thoroughly admirable.

It is a warning to Intellect that they’re going to have to raise their game and it should strike terror into the heart of IPS if projects are going to be judged henceforth on the basis of “Safeguards, Openness, Proportionality and Common sense”. In that case, for them, the game is up.

For the rest of us, this is progress. The Home Secretary has provided us with the criteria by which to judge any Home Office initiative. They are her criteria. She has volunteered them. We haven’t foisted them on her.

She hasn’t provided an inference engine, a machine on which you just turn the handle and out pops a decision, we still need to think. We may wish to add further criteria. The Home Secretary, too, may add criteria. But at the core of any review/criticism/assessment of any Home Office initiative, we now have SOPCom.

Take, for example, IMP. Not sure how to get started on assessing it? What are the criteria by which it should be evaluated? SOPCom. SOPCom gives you a way in, a way to get your ideas organised, a way to review IMP on the Home Secretary’s own terms.

It was a good day, 16 December 2008.

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And actually – is it Christmas or something? – the good news carried on next day.

The Civil Service Network carried an interview with Sir David Normington on Wednesday 17th December 2008 at 12:33:

What are your priorities for 2009?
I think the key challenge for us is to connect better with people’s real concerns on, for example, policing, crime and immigration. We need to build public confidence that we are tackling effectively the things that make people feel insecure in their daily lives.


How do you intend to achieve them?
We need to raise our game again in 2009. We need our people to be more professional, more skilled and more knowledgeable about the issues they are dealing with. We want our staff to be listening more to public concerns and getting a first-hand view of the issues we are dealing with. We also want good, confident relations with our key partners and stakeholders, on many of whom we rely for the delivery of effective services.

Connect with people’s concerns? Build public confidence? Effective tackling of insecurity? Professional, skilled, knowledgeable staff? Partners and stakeholders? Delivery? IPS have had it.

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Anyone who doubts that need only look at Encouraging good behaviour, a 21 November 2008 article by Bill Crothers, executive director commercial and chief information officer at the Identity and Passport Service:

With the government set to issue the first identity cards to foreign nationals [only non-EEA foreigners, you should make that clear] from next month, the £4.6bn National Identity Scheme (NIS) is gathering momentum [no and no].

... Operating constantly in the public spotlight ... [che? can we see the OGC reviews now?] ... we have to build, at pace [with delivery 14 years from now? 20 years from when David Blunkett fired the starting pistol?] ... a secure way of storing the identity data of everyone who lives and works in the UK.

... the NIS has important stakeholders right across government and in the devolved administrations ... [not in DWP or DIUS or DCSF or the DoH – so, where? and if these stakeholders exist, why aren’t their costs included in the NIS cost report?]

Relationships work on multiple levels – personal, professional and corporate. That means socialising is important ... [time on for good behaviour?]

... we have agreed some novel commercial arrangements by moving away from using fixed-price contracts for development work ... Most of our development work is contracted on a target price basis ... where we have to integrate deliverables from multiple suppliers, we create an ‘incentive pool’ to cover the expense of integration. If there is money left over at the end of integration, it is shared between all the suppliers involved and IPS [“novel", perhaps, but will costs be kept under control?].

When I started work as executive on this job in April last year, a large team of people had been working on the NIS for nearly four years. They had done some very good work [that’s not what OGC thought, neither did the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, neither did the NAO], but our pace is now quickening [not hard]. Within 14 months we have ... Completed a framework procurement, linking five of the largest industry suppliers to the NIS ... [what is a framework procurement? why have so many prospective suppliers removed their name from the list of candidates?] Completed the procurement of the first component of the NIS, the systems that will provide an ID card for ‘critical’ workers ... [that’s the card the airlines say is unnecessary. surely the first component of the NIS is the cards for non-EEA foreigners, isn’t that what you said?] Launched about £1.5bn of additional procurements for the strategic systems that will form the core of the NIS [such as?] ... Reinforced the political vision for the programme through a set of clear public statements [you mean the political vision was wavering? no-one knew why IPS is there? they still don’t].

All programmes need competent, professional management – good planning, proper risk management, good controls – but in my view that is never enough. In the worst case what you can end up with is a beautifully documented disaster. [quite]

The glacial pace of delivery at IPS is a mystery. There are two possible explanations. Either they are olympically ineffectual. Or there is someone, somewhere – someone with the power to make things not happen – deliberately putting the brakes on. If the latter, a Merry Christmas to you, and a Happy New Year.


David Moss has spent six years campaigning against the Home Office's ID card scheme.

2008 Business Consultancy Services Ltd
on behalf of Dematerialised ID Ltd