All of that and more – including Sir Anthony Blunt – in the latest edition of the long-running programme, Whitehall in control ...
Like a lot of people in Whitehall, Katie Davis used to be a partner at Accenture.
She left in 2005 to join the Cabinet Office, home also to Ian Watmore at the time. Mr Watmore, of course, is a former managing director of Accenture.
In 2007 she moved to the Identity & Passport Service (IPS), where she was appointed Executive Director of Strategy. After three years of her strategy, IPS imploded. They left their offices at Globe House and retreated to the Home Office mother ship in Marsham St. The Chief Executive, James Hall, previously a managing partner of Accenture, retired and was replaced by Sarah Rapson, never worked for Accenture, ex-American Express, MBA from the London Business School.
Five directors of the IPS board were cleared out at the same time and so it came to pass that Katie found herself back in the Cabinet Office with the title Executive Director, Operational Excellence, working for Ian Watmore's Efficiency & Reform Group (ERG, previously OGC). The quiet life of operational excellence there beckoned but was soon rudely interrupted when Christine left.
Christine Connelly was the Chief Information Officer at the Department of Health. She was for years the most articulate and impassioned supporter of NPfIT, the NHS's £11 billion+ National Programme for IT. In June 2011, she resigned.
There had been a few problems.
By this stage in the career of NPfIT, there were only two contractors left. Accenture had pulled out with losses of over $450 million. Fujitsu also had pulled out, and are still thinking of suing HMG for £700 million. Leaving only BT and CSC.
CSC – Computer Sciences Corporation – are an American software house. They took over Accenture's NPfIT contracts. As part of the deal, they inherited iSoft, the software house that developed Lorenzo, the package on which NPfIT depends.
iSoft got into financial problems. The market took a dim view of their habit of booking profits based on nothing more than vague promises that someone might at some stage in the future possibly buy a copy of Lorenzo or not. CSC had to take them over to keep them afloat.
Lorenzo continued to perform badly, causing CSC to miss certain important milestones in their delivery plan for NPfIT. What with that, and a minor misunderstanding in the US with the Armed Services Board which cost them $250 million, their shareholders were getting edgy and CSC asked Christine Connelly to sign a contract guaranteeing them £3 billion. They also offered a discount. How about we take 25% off the price, CSC asked, but only deliver 50% of the services?
Less for more. An attractive proposition as anyone would agree.
At least, Christine Connelly thought it was attractive and she was minded to sign. Not so fast, said Richard Bacon MP, a hero. Not so fast, said Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MBE MP, a hero. Not so fast, said, Ian Watmore, Chief Operating Officer of ERG, whose motto, devised by Lord Brown of Madingley, Chairman of ERG and previously Chairman of BP and the Gulf of Mexico, is "more for less".
Even David Cameron asked Ms Connelly to stay her hand. For months, it looked as though, with the support of her boss, Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS, she was going to tell the lot of them to take a running jump. A power which, it may come as a surprise to those who believe we live in a polity where politicians control Whitehall, she had. Then she was gone.
Had Ian Watmore at last managed to assert his authority over the Department of Health? Who knows. But one way and another, Christine Connelly was replaced by Katie Davis.
That was back in June. On 22 September 2011, the Daily Mail carried this front page headline:
Their heart was in the right place but the story was false. The Department of Health agree that NPfIT has a few problems (mutt) but according to Sir David Nicholson, to paraphrase, we all owe our very existence to the genius of NPfIT (jeff), which will go on. And on. Until we've spent all the money we're entitled to. And then we may need some more. Firm up on that one later.
£12bn NHS computer system is scrapped... and it's all YOUR money that Labour poured down the drain
This is Sir Gus O'Donnell's Whitehall. He has been head of the home civil service since 2005. He leaves at the end of the year. We shall miss his deft organisational powers. Public administration in the UK may never be the same again. With any luck. GOD retires from top job – to be replaced by a new trinity, as they say in yesterday's Times newspaper.
Talking of which, when the Times look at NPfIT, they say:
Whereas when Sir David looks at it, he says:
The history of the NHS computer system is one of criminal incompetence and irresponsibility
Sir Anthony Blunt was the world expert on Poussin. Standing in front of an obvious fake once, he declared it to be authentic. Why? Perhaps Sir David Nicholson could tell us.
We spent about 20% of that resource [the £11.4bn projected total spend on the NPfIT] on the acute sector. The other 80% is providing services that literally mean life and death to patients today, and have done for the last period.
So the Spine, and all those things, provides really, really important services for our patients. If you are going to talk about the totality of the [NPfIT] system … you have to accept that 80% of that programme has been delivered.
The quotation immediately above is due to Tony Collins, the award-winning investigative journalist, one of the few people on the planet who know what's going on NPfIT-wise, and a hero. Andrew Lansley? Admittedly Secretary of State for Health but, when it comes right down to it, just a politician. Not sure. Katie Davis? At least she's sort of a mandarin and a former Executive Director of Operational Excellence, but even so – not sure.
The sun never sets on Sir David's empire. Now a group of American investors are suing CSC in a class action. They clearly don't think Lorenzo is kosher either, any more than Richard Bacon, Margaret Hodge et al. Somehow, mysteriously, the shareholders have got hold of internal CSC reports going back to May 2008 saying that Lorenzo could never meet the NHS's requirements and that the package is on a "death march".
Not the sort of march you want a health service to be on. But then what has any of this £11 billion of public money got to do with health?