Tuesday, 16 July 2013

UKBA soon to be Whitemanless

Home Office press release, 27 June 2013:
Rob Whiteman leaves Home Office for new Chief Executive role

Rob Whiteman, Director General of Operational Systems Transformation, is leaving the Home Office to become Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.

Rob Whiteman, Director General of Operational Systems Transformation, is to leave his role at the Home Office to join the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) as its new Chief Executive.
When he joined in July 2011, Mr Whiteman was chief executive of the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Eight months later in March 2012 he lost the UK Border Force, which was but is no longer part of UKBA. And a year after that in March 2013, the remainder of UKBA was split in two. Leaving Mr Whiteman with nothing to be chief executive of, any more, at least at the Home Office.

Good luck CIPFA.

How many pieces will CIPFA be broken into by March 2015?

As Theresa May, the Home Secretary, says archly in the press release:
He leaves with my very best wishes for the future and I am sure he will be a great success in his important new role at CIPFA.
And what does Mark Sedwill, the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, have to say about the trail of destruction which is Mr Whiteman's career at UKBA? He speaks in Mandarin, of course, but you can probably manage your own translation:
Rob has made a remarkable contribution to the Home Office over the past 18 months and, on behalf of the department, I would like to thank him for his dedication and leadership.
The Home Affairs Committee routinely accuse UKBA and the Home Office of withholding information and going back on their word. It's not just the lack of accountability the Committee doesn't like. In one excruciating evidence session (15 May 2012), they also unmasked Mr Whiteman as the victim of producer capture, a common Whitehall affliction:
Q151 Chair: ... over the issue of your computer system that crashed at Lunar house. Hundreds of people were turned away, and we hear that some were in tears at the fact that the system did not work. What went wrong? Have we got compensation from the IT company? Will it happen again, and have we rearranged all the appointments?

Rob Whiteman: We contacted people over the bank holiday weekend and rearranged appointments. Around 500 appointments that were cancelled were rearranged. The issues around IT are incredibly frustrating for my staff, as well as for our customers. When I meet staff, it is a constant frustration that systems do not work all the time and that some of the resilience issues do not conform to common standards. In terms of morale and other issues, it is absolutely vital that we get to the heart of these IT problems. They are complex, yes, but-

Q152 Chair: Yes, but we do not want to go into that now. Do we know why it broke down?

Rob Whiteman: We do know why it broke down. It was an error on the network that affected the way appointments were queued from the system, and therefore they could not travel properly around the network. It was an IT failure, but, to answer your question, I have discussed this several times with the Chief Executive of the IT company that is the primary IT provider.

Q153 Chair: What is the company?

Rob Whiteman: I would rather not say.

Q154 Chair: I am sorry, Mr Whiteman; this is a Select Committee of the House-

Rob Whiteman: It is Atos.

Q155 Chair: There is no need to be secret with us; we will find out. It is public money. It is not coming out of your pocket. The taxpayer is paying. What is the name of the company?

Rob Whiteman: Atos.

Q156 Chair: And what was his explanation as to why it broke down?

Rob Whiteman: The reason I was reluctant, Chairman, is that we have a contract with Atos. It is trying its best to resolve the issues, but obviously we are being a demanding client and saying that performance is not good enough.

Q157 Chair: As you should be.

Rob Whiteman: I would not want to cast aspersions on the effort that it is making. It has put an additional team in to try to analyse the problem, and I receive daily and weekly reports from them. The point I would make is that in terms of UKBA improving over the next couple of years ...
Being chief executive of UKBA as was, was probably an impossible job, beyond any human being, and Mr Whiteman is just a human being.

That conclusion is a bit mundane for some. They like something more dramatic in the Guardian. Here's an extract from an open letter they published, from David Walker to Mr Whiteman:
Congratulations on finding a safe passage out of the Whitehall jungle. Senior people at the Home Office, especially those anywhere near the borders, have proved pretty expendable of late, and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) job came at the right time. Some say those who live by the sword die by the sword. You shafted the UK Border Force's Brodie Clark on behalf of Theresa May and you, in turn, have been shafted by the new permanent secretary, Mark Sedwill, on behalf of Theresa May. She sails on, the Tory leadership in her sights, while all around good people fall to their deaths.
"All around good people fall to their deaths"? That hasn't been reported in the Guardian. Or anywhere else.

Anyway, take your pick, mundane or murderous.

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