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.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

HMRC Halves IT Spend - Is Phil Pavitt a Mysteron?

Phil Pavitt (HMRC's Chief Information Officer and director of change) has told a public sector efficiency expo in London that HMRC has reduced its spending on IT from £1.4BN to £700M in two years.

That's quite an achievement for a man who, when he was at NTL, oversaw the "Harmony" project; which was designed to unify eight billing platforms and 28 CRM databases. Harmony was late and over budget.

Seemingly the cuts in HMRC have not come at the expense of quality of service.


Pavitt is quoted in the Guardian:

"This year it was just under £700m, and by the end of the spending review it will be just over £600. 

And yet the service quality has dramatically improved, not measured by me, but measured by the speaker after me [Amyas Morse, comptroller and auditor general at the National Audit Office]."

This being the same NAO that, in July 2011, said:

"There is clear evidence that HMRC is beginning to stabilise its administration of PAYE, following the disruption to processing which flowed from the introduction of its new computer system. 

However, stabilisation will not be fully complete until 2013, according to the Department, and it will need to deliver its plan to improve PAYE data quality if it is to realise the benefits of the new system and prepare for the move to real time information."

This also being the same NAO that in March 2012 stated that Caseflow and Spectrum have not delivered "any additional benefits", and warned HMRC that it will not meet its future forecasts to collect an additional £8.9BN by 2014/15, thanks to the failure of Caseflow and Spectrum.

Anyhoo, ignoring those "small points", Pavitt went on to state that HMRC had 31 platforms in place two years ago, but now only has one.


"We identified one of those and said, 'Okay, we're going to migrate to that. Whatever that one is we're also going to modernise to the latest version,' which we perhaps hadn't always had in every part of our business.

The cost of the new platform is much cheaper than the running and the maintenance of the old platform. Freeing up and reinvesting that money means we'll replace every single application - two-thirds of our infrastructure - in the next four years for the outlay of less than £20m, when the original bill was closer to £200m. 

Not a pipe dream, but a commercial reality.

If you have call centres attracting a large number of calls, but their IT is not available for 120 to 150 minutes a week, that introduces a level of inefficiency. 

If you have call centres whose IT is a 100% month after month, inevitably you give the business a chance to improve their operation, which they have done, to meet the need of the customer.

IT transformation, which foreruns some of the bigger transformations at HMRC, was critical to get right."

So there you are folks, everything is fine!

I wonder if Pavitt is the Mysteron agent within HMRC, that I referred to the other day?

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. I don't know about mysteron but he is a knob head like the rest of them in power. None of them will accept caseflow does not work and is not fit for purpose. I wonder about the sanity of anyone who invests in software that you have to make your work fit instead of making one fit for purpose or simply updating the old but efficient and reliable packages they already have. The ridiculous thing is when the next party come into power it will be scrapped along with pacesetter. Remember ‘lean’ anyone?

  2. "Seemingly the cuts in HMRC have not come at the expense of quality of service."

    If they reduced the bill by 100% I doubt it would have an impact on the quality of service.

  3. Those of us who have followed the, erm, spotty career of Phil "Employment Agency " Pavitt will understand that his relationship with the truth has always been somewhat difficult...........

  4. One suspects most of the 'gains' have come from consolidating software onto fewer physical boxes and using more 'virualisation' as this is the flavour of the month in IT at the moment. However, the fact you are running a virtualised Windows server on a machine that is also running a virtualised Unix Server etc does not mean you have any less operating systems or software to support just less hardware. So Pavitts claim to have only one platform is almost certainly being extremely economical with the truth Since much of the cost is taken up by the former not the latter I doubt that these 'savings' are going to be around for long as overtime software license increases will eat into the savings. Virtualisation can create its one issues as shared resources such as disk, memory and cpu capacity may have to upgraded over time if one of the systems using the resource has been poorly specified and is subsequently found to need much more grunt. For example, general upgrade of CPUs on shared machine can feed directly into the bottom line as licensing costs of software are often based on CPU Mips. Thus if you enhance the CPUs on a box because one system or application needs more processing speed then all the other systems software licenses may also be hiked regardless of whether they need the extra power or not. This is the tciking timebombs Pavitt is leaving for his succesors.

  5. It's not difficult to cut your IT spend if you close down half the offices in the network.

  6. HMRC bought-in Caseflow from an outside contractor called Pega. It was designed "top-down" without consulting the staff (at the bottom) who are "required" to use it which is why, as a humble staffer at the bottom of the food chain, you have to force your work to fit the system... a bit like forcing a square peg to fit a round hole. As the design is "top-down" then Caseflow is all fine and dandy for the mandarins at the top of the tree, e.g. Pavitt, Eland, Summersgill, etc.

    Another interesting fact about Caseflow is that HMRC ordered it for all those millions of taxpayers' money knowing full well that the Australian tax authorities implemented a similar system that took them 4 years to get it to work.