Friday 16 October 2015

Manzoni: reform and the efficiency of the Civil Service

Apparently yesterday was the third birthday of the Government Digital Service's award-winning GOV.UK, the public face of UK government on-line.

While Steve Uriah Foreshew was cheering on the remainder of the depleted crew, John Manzoni was speaking to Reform about "reform and the efficiency of the Civil Service".

Mr Manzoni is Chief Executive of the civil service and he and Matt Hancock, Cabinet Office Minister, have entertained us before with their views on GDS.

"In the Government’s Major Projects portfolio there are 150 major projects worth £400 billion", Mr Manzoni told Reform, "everything from building aircraft carriers, to engineering new digital services like Verify, to protect citizens identity online". Aircraft carriers, yes, they appear in the Major Projects Authority's 2014-15 report. But GOV.UK Verify (RIP) doesn't.

Mr Manzoni will have cheered up the oarspersons in the GDS lifeboat with "GOV.UK is the model and the vehicle for what we need to do. It has brought nearly 1,900 websites into a single portal, saving significant amounts of money each year". If they ever make landfall, there's more to do – "this is just the start".

What more is there to do?

As the Chief Executive surveys his dominions, what is his top priority for action?

"Digital technology lets us share and join up. So, why, for example, would we duplicate effort and expense, by having numerous different ways for citizens to make payments to government online? Why have departments developing their own systems – when by working to a common goal we could have one – helping users by helping ourselves".

"Numerous"? How many different payment systems are there in the civil service? How much money would be saved by having just one? Who is competent to design that one, single payments system? Mr Manzoni didn't bore Reform with any details by way of an answer.

All he told them was that "this is how Government Digital Service is leading the digital transformation of government – government as a platform – cheaper, simpler, smarter". Oh dear.

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