Saturday 22 September 2012

Universal Credit and the December putsch

Without him, 21 million people will have no identity.
Without him, Universal Credit will fail.
Will ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken deliver on time?

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December 2011, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) needs an identity assurance service to make its Universal Credit plan work. DWP officials write an invitation to tender (ITT) estimating a figure in the region of £240 million to be offered to suppliers interested in five-year contracts. A notice is published, as required by law, in OJEU, the Official Journal of the European Union.

This is the old way, the path of false consciousness.

The uncomradely hate crime committed by the reactionary cadre DWP is deprecated by Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister, and following a late-night encounter in his facility deep in the bowels of the Lubyanka DWP's OJEU notice is voluntarily and swiftly withdrawn. Loyal agents of Minitrue erase all traces of it from the record. All except for this one, expressing DWP's meek contrition:
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has cancelled its tender for identity assurance services, claiming it had not followed the relevant procedures for the procurement.

A spokeswoman for the DWP told GGC: "The Ojeu for identity assurance services (IAS) was (prematurely) issued by the department before all of the necessary governance, approvals and checks were complete and therefore needed to be withdrawn. We expect an Ojeu for IAS to be re-issued in the new year."
1 March 2012, ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken, executive director of the Government Digital Service (GDS) and Senior Responsible Officer Owner for the Identity Assurance programme, publishes Identity: One small step for all of Government on the Identity Assurance blog operated by GDS:
GDS has been working closely with DWP to revise the OJEU and agree it with other Departments ...

The revised DWP OJEU notice is effectively an HMG-wide framework being delivered initially using DWP as the vehicle. We will then introduce wider HMG needs into this first draft and cut/paste the whole approach into GPS. This approach ensures that, ultimately, HMG-wide Identity Assurance is supplied across central departments via a common procurement portal (to HMG agreed standards) and governed by the Cabinet Office.
Following revision of the ITT, in the gloom of the Cabinet Office darkness at noon, and with the tortured body of DWP now quivering in the basement, the consideration for identity assurance is reduced to £30 million, the ex-Guardian man says, and the lease on the contracts will be only 18 months. The new notice in OJEU makes surprising reading:
HMG is intending to establish a marketplace of suppliers to deliver identity assurance services consistent with the Cabinet Office guidelines and utilising agreed open standards. This will support the roll-out of strategic customer services and HM Government programmes - DWP’s universal credit and personal independence payments in the first instance.

The initial DWP services will be required to provide identity assurance for approximately 21 000 000 claimants. As the HMG customer base is diverse, a wide range of suppliers will be required to ensure demographic coverage to ensure that no claimant sector is unfairly disadvantaged by limiting supplier choice.

To support the rollout of universal credit and personal independence payments, identity assurance suppliers will be selected in summer 2012 and systems will need to be fully operational from spring 2013 ...
The revised notice was published on 1 March 2012 and the service has to be operational from the Spring of 2013? Barely a year later? Only six months after the contracts are awarded? 21 million claimants? Millions of whom have never used the web? Operational? Countrywide?

It's a tall order. Nevertheless, 25 May 2012, GDS apparatchik Steve Wreyford publishes Identity Assurance gets closer to market in Pravda assuring 21 million grateful claimants that a framework agreement has been established, that "a selection of potential suppliers has passed the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire stage of the procurement" and that the successful bidders (Google) should be announced by the end of September – only eight days to go, tovarich.

The announcement cannot come too soon. 17 September 2012, and the normally resilient tractor-drivers are becoming despondent:
Universal Credit is due to replace scores of individual benefits from next year, simplifying claims and allowing claimants to keep more of their benefits when they take paid work. The regime will be internet-based, with ministers intending that most claimants apply and report a change in circumstances online.

Appearing before a Commons inquiry into the reform, Lord Freud, the welfare reform minister, was asked what was the biggest risk to the programme. “I’ll say what the challenges are, what we need to get right: to get the security system working properly,” he said.

Private security companies will be commissioned to develop a system of “identity assurance” to check that only real claimants can get benefits. “That’s one of the biggest challenges,” said Lord Freud.
Without him, 21 million people will have no identity. Without him, Universal Credit will fail. Will ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken deliver on time? Who will the winning suppliers be? (Google.) Who will be the UK's "identity providers", as they are known in GDS Newspeak? (Google, the mind-writers™.)


A historian writes:
If you ask me, it all went wrong last December when the spineless bourgeois DWP lost control of its own programme to the kulak Maude and his entryist henchmen, Martha Lane Fox and ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken. I mean that's just my opinion.
L. Trotsky

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