The UK government proposes to make public services more efficient by using cloud computing. The G-Cloud project – government cloud – operates the CloudStore, an on-line shop for cloud computing services. Central government departments and local government, too, can buy whatever they need from the CloudStore quickly and cheaply.
Quickly, cheaply and with confidence, because these cloud computing services have all been accredited.
And some of them have pan-government accreditation. 72 of them, to be precise:
Nine of the pan-government accredited services are provided by Lockheed Martin, 18 of them by Microsoft and two by QinetiQ. These are big companies that everyone has heard of, just the sort of suppliers you would expect to be worthy of this valuable accolade, pan-government accreditation.
Any services procured which have not achieved pan government accreditation are purchased at the risk to [sic] the consumer. The Pan Government Accreditation service (PGA), Public Sector Accreditation Board (PSAB) and the G-Cloud SIRO shall not be accountable for any such decision. The preference of the G-Cloud programme is that BIL 11x/22x and 33x should have pan government security accreditation before they are bought from the Cloud Store.
There are smaller companies, too, including our old friend Skyscape, the captive cloud company, which offers 14 pan-government accredited services. Quite extraordinary, when you remember that Skyscape didn't even exist until 3 May 2011.
And then there's MDS Technologies, with two services on offer.
Who are MDS?
Take a look at their team. It includes one Gordon Liddle, who "joined MDS in 2003 and has responsibility from the point a customer has signed a contract. His role is to ensure that all implementations and ongoing services delight our customers and business continuity is a reality". Except that that's not his rôle. He doesn't work at MDS any more. He's a marine research & conservation volunteer now, at the Tropical Research and Conservation Centre, Borneo.
Time to get onto Companies House and take a look at MDS.
It turns out to be a £104 company. Tiny. Like Skyscape, with its £1,000 of share capital.
It's a bit odd banging on about share capital but Skyscape and MDS are unquoted companies. QinetiQ has a market capitalisation of $2.0 billion, Lockheed Martin $41.1 billion and Microsoft $274.5 billion. We know what the markets think of them. All we know about Skyscape and MDS is that their investors were prepared to risk £1,000 and £104, respectively.
That seems to have been enough for the Government Procurement Service, or whoever conducts accreditation for G-Cloud. Pan-government accreditation has been given to a company with 10,400 1p shares.
MDS's annual return was received at Companies House on 11 September 2012 and shows that its five directors hold 9,678 shares between them.
MDS's accounts had been received at Companies House one month earlier, on 9 August 2012. The accounts are unaudited. Pan-government accreditation has been given to a company without the benefit even of audited accounts.
(Trainspotters will remember that Skyscape was accredited when it was so young that it hadn't submitted any accounts at all to Companies House. None. How did they do it?)
Unquoted and unaudited, nothing much happened for a few months at MDS according to Companies House except that by 12 March 2013 the appointment of four of the five directors had been terminated.
Bit worrying. Losing 80% of the Board. Or maybe not, given that six months later MDS retains its pan-government accreditation. Presumably the G-Cloud people believe that those four directors weren't doing anything and their loss makes no difference.
"Any services procured which have not achieved pan government accreditation are purchased at the risk to [sic] the consumer", it says on the G-Cloud website. That's true. In the cloud. But here on terror firmer, the same applies to services procured which do have pan-government accreditation – they, too, are procured "at the risk to [sic] the consumer".
Four out of five directors gone, leaving just one.
You don't remember Phil Dawson, but we have met him before. Not only is he the managing director of MDS. He is also the CEO of Skyscape. Not that that coincidence is mentioned in the self-congratulatory press release issued on 24 May 2013, 'MDS congratulate partner, Skyscape for winning public cloud project of the year award'.
It's the least MDS could do. They're a helpful partner, Skyscape. On 9 April 2013 Companies House registered a charge against MDS's assets in respect of a £250,000 loan. From Skyscape.
And on 22 April 2013, Companies House registered that MDS had adopted new articles of association.
By this stage, MDS is a brand new company. But it still retains its old pan-government accreditation.
There are two other charges against MDS's assets, both registered at Companies House on 22 January 2013, £125,000 each, in respect of the deposits held by MDS's landlords, Ark (A9) Ltd and Ark (SQ17) Ltd.
Ring a bell?
It should. Skyscape's landlord is ARK Continuity Ltd, the company with Jeffrey Paul Thomas as a director, the man who used to own a share in Skyscape but gave it up, leaving Jeremy Robin Sanders as the sole shareholder, the company (ARK) with Baroness Elizabeth Lydia Manningham-Buller as a director, the lady who used to be the Director General of MI5.
Skyscape is now controlled by Virtual Infrastructure Group Ltd, not Jeremy Robin Sanders.
And Virtual Infrastructure Group Ltd?
The company has four directors. Including Jeremy Robin Sanders. And Philip Michael Dawson.
And that – just to go back to the original question – is pan-government accreditation, Whitehall-style.