Monday 25 April 2016

The gateway to openness

"The annual end submission date for tax self assessment in January is one of the critical events in the year for the Government Gateway, HMRC and government IT systems as a whole". So said David Hargreaves on 25 February 2016 in Managing the self assessment tsunami:
This year was the largest yet. The Government Gateway processed over 2.9 million self assessment submissions in January. This was just part of almost 7.5 million transactions it handled over the whole month, and the 10 million online self assessments processed in 2015.

The volumes topped 400,000 on Friday 29 January. That’s the equivalent of 8.5 submissions per second.
The Government Gateway is clearly quite a substantial cross-government platform. And these are notable transaction volumes.

And yet, if you try to find anything out about the Government Gateway on the Government Digital Service's performance platform, look what you get:

It looks to you as though there's no such thing as the Government Gateway.

The same happens if you search You get no data.

It's as though the Government Gateway doesn't exist. Despite the Government Gateway having received 12.9 million 2015-16 self-assessment tax returns. And who knows how many VAT returns. And PAYE/NI returns. And corporation tax returns. And at what cost.

Given that the UK aims to be the most "open" nation on earth when it comes to government data, this is a glaring omission:
  • The open data enthusiasts claim that openness leads to innovation – the omission of Government Gateway data is stymying innovation.
  • The data scientists argue that rational government policy depends on the availability of data – Government Gateway data is not available and therefore policy is likely to be irrational.
Why is data relating to the Government Gateway hidden?

There's no point guessing. There's good reason though to insist that the omission be corrected, quickly, for the general good.

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