Aside from paying its top people a "decent" salary (nothing wrong with that, if they actually deliver a decent service), HMRC are not averse to paying outsiders a "decent" wad when it comes to website design and development.
Rory Cellan-Jones writes:
"What would it cost to create and run a government website for three years?
How does £105m sound?
After we covered a couple of stories about government spending on websites and iPhone apps someone got in touch to suggest we take a look at one particular site, businesslink.gov.uk.
The correspondent said this site, run by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), had cost £35m a year to build and operate for three years and suggested that it had been poor value, delivered an unsatisfactory service to users and proved technically shaky.
I could not quite believe that figure - it sounds an awful lot of money for one site
but it turns out to be true. Businesslink.gov.uk was among the sites singled out last week by the Cabinet Office as very expensive in terms of cost per visit.
When I went to the lengthy document in which the Central Office of Information (COI) examined central government websites, I found that £35m staring out from a table.
Only the NHS Choices site, at £21m, comes anywhere close. But it has around six million unique users a month, whereas the Business Link site, which offers all kinds of advice to businesses, has just over a million.
The site is the work of a major outsourcing company called Serco, which has sub-contracted the technology to a little business called BT. So how do the costs break down?
The COI report has some detail - £6.2m on strategy and planning, £4.4m on design and build, £4.7m on hosting and infrastructure, £15.3m on content provision and £4.5m on testing and evaluation. What I can't work out is why that cost is repeated for three years."
Needless to say HMRC and Serco think that it is good value:
"HMRC and its supplier Serco also put up a robust defence. HMRC said the businesslink.gov.uk site delivered benefits of over £800m a year to companies - a huge return on the £35m invested. I always wonder how those kind of figures are worked out, in the public or private sector.
Serco also cites that £800m figure and goes on to say that it has continually looked for efficiency savings since winning the contract in 2005, and these have amounted to £44m so far."
So that's alright then!
Tax does have to be taxing.
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