That discomfort may soon be relieved. Mr Chant's retirement was announced on 13 April and at the end of the month he will be replaced, part-time, by Denise McDonagh who remains simultaneously Director of IT at the Home Office.
A passing acquaintance with the work of the Public Administration Select Committee, the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office will confirm that the problems identified by the G-Cloud team exist. The NAO give you the horrifying details. PAC remind you in their admirably trenchant style how much public money is wasted on government IT. And, with Whitehall and its favoured contractors comfortably and expensively under-performing, PASC keep asking how the quality of public administration in the UK can be raised.
The problems are known. The question is whether G-Cloud – the government cloud – is the solution.
Ms McDonagh divides the world into those in favour of G-Cloud, those against it and those who don’t know but insist on discussing it anyway. Before deciding whether we’re for G-Cloud or agin’ it, we proud members of the third group have a number of questions which remain currently unanswered. Here are just two of them:
- Firstly, as Tony “forces of reaction” Blair and David “enemies of enterprise” Cameron will tell you, parliament lost control of Whitehall a long time ago. The departments of state are impregnable satrapies where the permanent secretary, his or her chief executives and the aforementioned favoured suppliers nurse a pile of eight-, nine- and even ten-figure contracts that G-Cloud would upset mightily. How is Denise McDonagh going to succeed where parliament has failed?
- Second, even with a £1 trillion national debt and a flatlining economy the coalition government set aside £650 million for cybersecurity. Someone recognises the threat. The web is a dangerous place to be. The media treat us to stories of denial of service and the cybertheft of data every week. No-one is immune, including Whitehall. And yet that’s where G-Cloud would see all our data stored, in the cloud, on the web. How will Ms McDonagh keep control of it there?
Or was it the foreword to a 2015 NAO report on how G-Cloud is yet another government IT project that saw £x hundred million incinerated by Whitehall, and a PAC report asking what the point is of paying taxes if this is what happens to public money, and a PASC report on the uncomfortable question – are Whitehall capable of doing their job of public administration?
A version of this post is carried in today's PublicTechnology.net.