HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Three Year Managers For Ten Year Projects - Dearnley's Binary Revolution

My thanks to the loyal reader who penned this most excellent analysis about Dearnley and the "binary revolution" in HMRC:
"Dearnley is a probably being economical with the actualit√© like so many members of HMRC’s Ex Com.

The constant shouting of the word 'Digital' to describe their IT strategy should immediately ring alarm bells since by their very nature all the Departments computers have been digital (ie using binary compiled code) since the date the Inland Revenue bought their very first LEO machine second hand from Joe Lyons in the 1960s. As a consequence the Revenue could claim to have digitised most of its work decades ago. It would be nice to see such obvious bullshit occasionally challenged at places like PAC.

More seriously, while Dearnley frequently likes to boast about his speedy roll out of Windows 7 to all HMRC desktops he negelects to mention that in the process it has broken loads of applications, created many problems and generated thousands of lost man hours of work

With regard to the problem of 'legacy' systems Dearnley seems to fail to understand or deliberately ignores the basic issue that all IT applications fall into that category the moment they hit the live metal and start running in anger. It does not matter whether they are 5 minutes old or 5 years old they all have to be maintained and they all face the issue that the software and hardware on which they were designed and run is sooner or later out of date. Moreover, political events and changes to legislation will mean the functionality is going to have to be constantly updated and enhanced.

It is certainly true that HMRC over the years has wound up with a huge IT estate running a wide range of different platforms, operating systems and applications. However, the people largely responsible for that situation are not the Revenues IT suppliers but the Board of HMRC itself, including individual like Dearnley and Pavitt who have constantly changed the core IT strategy. For example, a few years ago the mantra coming out of Ex Com was that HMRC was to buy not build its software so they invested massively in various proprietary COTS packages, many of which were costly and often incompatible with the Revenues needs so had to be expensively customised. Now the pendulum has swung completely the opposite way and HMRC now are betting the whole shooting match on Open Source systems and bespoke applications written in house. That punt may come off but it is a very high risk strategy particularly as much of the software being used is largely untried and unproven for running major government systems and the in house HMRC 'Digital' Teams in Newcastle and elsewhere have no experience of delivering and supporting systems on that scale. In addition, there is the very real worry that Dearnley appears to be funding his ambitions by stripping out investment in maintaining and supporting the existing legacy estate which still runs 99% of HMRC systems. If his grand schemes come to nothing then the Revenue could end up with the worst of all worlds with new systems not fit for purpose and old applications needing costly large scale upgrades to keep them running.

The suspicion is that Dearnley who spent a mere three years at Vodafone before cutting and running to HMRC in 2013 will do exactly the same thing to the Revenue when his contract expires in 2016. Unfortunately, by then HMRC may find its IT has been well and truly scuppered.
Ironically Accountancy Age, on the very same day as my article about Dearnley, wrote about outsourced tax credit Concentrix staff in Belfast being paid millions (approx £72M) to do nothing for three months as a result of a systemic HMRC IT failure.

Let us trust that Dearnley (if he is actually competent) doesn't regard this as merely a two/three year stepping stone role on his career path.

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. Yes, interesting when I saw this posted, it seems some of these numpties have to go forth and attract attention at the wrong time, but thats the 3 year congealment in progress I suppose.

    Also interesting that maybe this topic should be placed before a different PAC to the one that Hodge sits upon which is about as effective as being savaged by a dead sheep?
    Maybe the better PAC would be the one that goes by the name of Public Administration Select Committee - role

    PASC examines the quality and standards of administration within the Civil Service and scrutinises the reports of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

    Given the lack of depth with which Hodges Committee investigate HMRC perhaps the PASC is better for the task at hand.

    HMRC is beginning to get the attention it deserves and maladministration and a few other descriptors include the size of the hidden bullying problem need to be added to any in-depth investigation. It might even see the correct investigators instructed to look at the goings on in there as there is obviously no stomach for internal investigation.

    The depth and breadth of law breaking is breathtaking and a scandal to which MP's of all parties are waking up to.

  2. Given the lack of depth with which Hodges Committee investigate HMRC perhaps the PASC is better for the task at hand.
    The depth and breadth of law breaking is breath taking and a scandal to which MP's of all parties are waking up to.
    waking up to it is one thing, getting off their arses and taking decisive action is another.
    How do we make this cluster fuck THE main election issue?

    1. By getting off our own lazy arses and making sure your MP's are made aware in no uncertain terms and requested to contact Milliband and Balls requesting that their promised independant grass roots review is undertaken and expanded to include staff issues;
      “That’s why Ed Balls and I are today announcing an independent, root and branch review of the culture and practice of HMRC when it comes to tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.”, write to your MP's now, highlighting your concerns and asking for the review to be extended to employment practices and launched as soon as possible.

      Then try getting one or two of the groups such as 38 degrees or similar to take an additional interest. You cant leve it all to the ex HMRC employee writing for Private Eye - you have to do something yourselves people!

    2. To be fair to Dearnley and company they are merely fulfilling the brief set for them by the government. The Cabinet IT policy is now to favour small contracts from multiple suppliers, avoiding proprietary products and investing in Open Source infrastucture so that is what HMRC are implementing. One might argue that with a General Election in the offing a CIO worth his salt could be a little less gung ho in following out his mission particularly given the risks it poses to the states computing and tax raising infrastructure. I suppose he would argue that he is only doing what he was employed to do and that the three year timescale was set out by HMRC when they engaged him rather than being his choice. The strategy might even be the right one providing it was done over a more sensible period and done carefully. The problem is that it appears to being done too quickly, with too little fore thought for its potential impact on staff and the taxpaying public, and dare I say it with too little money

      The truth is that If one wants to finds the people who are really responsible for why government computing is so often terrible it is necessary to look beyond people like Dearnley or even Homer to politicians such as Francis Maude whose dabs are all over a lot of IT disasters from the original decision to outsource the Inland Revenues systems to the likes of EDS in the early 1990s right through to the current Universal Credit fiasco. It is worth noting that the latter has decided recently to quit as an MP and a minister before all these chickens come home roost with a vengeance.

  3. Note this piece of shit Maude is stepping down, I bet he's taking a nice fat pension and lump sum with him while fucking up many public servants pension (rewriting their contracts, not letting them take them until state pension age etc). to add insult to injury the bastard will probably be made a peer too.

  4. Now you see the two tier system we live in. WE are here to be used, abused, and blamed. Viewed as just dirt under their feet. The fat cats gravy train HMRC rolls on squashing everything in its path, with no regard for OUR tax contributions.
    How great is our Britain eh!