back to article Maude: Gov contracts 'made my eyes water'

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has said he was shocked by things he found when renegotiating government contracts over the summer. Speaking at the government's Open Data conference on 19 November 2010, he told the audience that in the past departments have signed inefficient deals because senior ministers "have not …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Also dont forget

    If you aint in the list x club, you cant even see the spec!!

    how closed is the bidding?

    SERCO, Fujitsu et al spend thousands on entertaining the client under the guise of "meeting expenses"

    how many smaller companies can match the "Old pal's network" and even get a look in

  2. Chris Miller

    Politician talks sense, shock horror

    I would offer correction on one point, however: "senior ministers have not always taken seriously the obligation to look at what is in the contracts they are signing and understand it properly"

    On the contrary, I think they understand it very well. The more 'juice' in the contracts, the better the remuneration for the forthcoming board/consultancy work once the minster has retired/been given the order of the boot - "nothing too onerous, old boy, a couple of days a month at most - how does £100k a year sound?" After all, one can't be expected to live on the meagre pensions available to former MPs or ministers, can one?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Well done Minister!

    But will it all be hogwashed into oblivion?

    Unfortunately governments come and go as do Ministers but the UK civil servantry is there to stay.

    And moreover, no amount of new blood, new initiatives or new working methods is likely to undo whatever communications exist in the sector between civil servants and what were once civil servants.

    Add a dash of TUPE and it really is just the same old same old by the same old same old?

  4. Piers

    We want as a government to create what we've called a power shift...

    "We want as a government to create what we've called a power shift and move power and control decisively from elites in Westminster to individuals, neighbourhoods and communities."

    er... the Right are the New Left?!?

    1. David Hicks

      Quite the opposite

      The right has always been the home of small government, it's the left that are associated with economic and legal control-freakery.

      I don't ever think the damage of the last labour administration will be undone, but anything to get away from the "Nanny knows best" years by making government more transparent and accountable is a good thing.

      If the conservatives could shake some of the cow-towing to big business and the pandering to religious interests, they'd be about perfect in my book

  5. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    New open bidding form

    Field1 - Number of jobs you will create in marginal constituency we want to win

    Field2 - Number of jobs you will transfer from safe seat of other party

    Field3 - Number and salary of directorships for senior civil servants / cabinet ministers when they retire

    Field4 - Number of contracts for UK stuff your government will cancel if we don't agree to buy your computer/missile/fighter

    Yep, can see that being plainly detailed in an online form

  6. Hollerith 1

    Heads must roll

    If nobody gets into trouble for being sloppy and lazy, what will change?

    Not that this is a Government failing. I work in a big national company, supposedly competitive, and the number of badly conceived and costly projects is also eye-watering. How can so many senior managers have sans clue?

  7. Jacqui

    2K a year subscriptions fees....

    ensure SMBs are kept out.

    The only reason the current lot want to allow SMBs to bid direct is to force the price bid by the big five downwards. No small business will *ever* win a bid - opt outs are built into the terms such as a small business not having resource of some form ("cash liquidity" is often used to exclude SMB's).

  8. Robinson


    As it's anything over £25,000 at the moment, I'm pretty sure we'll start to see lots of contracts signed for £24,999.99, or, say, two separate contracts, both worth £12, 500. Personally I think this doesn't go far enough.

  9. Is it me?

    I look forward to.....

    Francis Maud reading an IT contract and understanding it, they run to thousands of pages, so I can't see any minister reading any of them. They would be hard pushed to understand the IT detail.

    I also can't see all government contracts going on to the Internet, most government systems are GPMS at RESTRICTED and above, so the technical details and composition of the systems are not for public consumption for some very good reasons.

    Mind you the quality of the requirements, and the answers given, might give a few laughs, I hope the Register is preparing a crack team of jouno's to paw through all these contracts.

    So far as being in the List X club goes, it's not difficult to join, just expensive, how to get list X accreditation is available to all, not all contracts require it, and most small niche players come in under a Prime contractor, who helps them.

    I doubt Fujitsu and SERCO are good examples of the in club though, neither is doing that well with government IT at present.

    Government procurement is fair, to the point of stupidity, it costs a fortune most of the time to bid, even for frameworks, and it's stunningly easy to be excluded for a trivial mistake, as quite a few SI's have found out over the years, getting themselves locked out of frameworks like Catalyst.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: I look forward to

      "I look forward to ... Francis Maud reading an IT contract and understanding it, they run to thousands of pages, so I can't see any minister reading any of them."

      True, but there is AC's "two sides of A4" suggestion to consider and I think Francis Maude's point was that even his brief skimming of contracts was enough to sound alarm bells.

      This isn't surprising. You don't need any expertise in IT to ask "How does the payment schedule compare with the deliverable schedule?" or "What are the cancellation options?" or "What are the penalty clauses?". These are always questions worth asking. You don't need *much* expertise in IT to understand that "payment up front", "none" and "none" are bad answers. Based on recent fiascos, I think there are low-hanging fruit here for any government looking to tighten up procurement.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Current contracts with the TLA companies and Big 4 mean that Government can hide projects inside "service contracts". Its okay to sack Consultants from small companies saving a few thousand pounds while also on giving "service providers" similar work for millions! The Cabinet Office is really uninformed.

  11. Sillyfellow

    372 pages of legal mumbo jumbo

    haha. the writing in even a simple contract show that the legal profession have really outdone themselves at causing general confusion, vague terms, and sometimes re-defining the meanings of ordinary words. there've been cases of contracts referring to non existent documents etc.

    no wonder they have no idea what they're signing.

    and even through all that, simple errors are easily made.

    for example, what happened to me. when an incorrect addition to a title deed, by the sellers lawyer, (because of some confusion due to 2 properties both being on one arb document at one time). i called those lawyers and said to them that the contract clearly stated that i would be owner of both properties, but they assured me that the document was correct and was for only one property. twice i checked, with same outcome.

    then after all signed and done, i got a (rather nervous) phone call from seller's lawyer saying they had made an error and accidentally (legally) sold us 2 properties for the price of one. HAHAHA. i couldn't help laughing, and told them i'd informed them twice etc (via email and phone call). most amusing. but we are honest people and i said. i told you so. and ok to 'amend' the contract to make it right. However, they were very lucky because it was already a done deal, and i legally owned an extra property. mistake or not. dumbasses.

    and the contract had so much mumbo jumbo in it that it made me laugh.

    hope you enjoyed my little story. which is true btw. aaahh, t'is friday after all. hehe.

    1. My Alter Ego

      You should have been even more generous

      Telling them that you'd sign the new contract after they make a donation to a charity of your choice.

      Admittedly I doubt I have the balls to do it, too much chance of being done for extortion (even if you are the legal owner)

    2. My Alter Ego

      One pther thing

      I would have made sure the vendor was fully aware of the cock up made.

    3. David Hicks

      I think my honesty and deceny may have run out

      After informing them twice.

      I'd have been consulting my own lawyer to see what my options were and the likely outcomes at that point.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Mr Hesseltine had it right?

    Dear Minister

    Develop or feign dyslexia.

    Tell your senior aide that each item requiring a signature must contain a summary on one side of A4 and a risk analysis summary on another side of A4.

    Both have to be signed and dated by senior aide and the person who drafted the document and all have to be in order :-)

    That'll make them (the aides that is) squeak a little bit when the sit or stand :-)

    regards as always

    Anonymous Coward

  13. JaitcH

    Same pigs back at the same trough

    I see some £3.3-billion was paid to Capita, the governments IT service leach.

    Some cut backs!

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Pension money

      £3.2 billion of that figure is for public pensions.

  14. Graham Marsden


    ... post them on El Reg and you'll soon find out how many problems there are with the contracts!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't forget the Non-exec Directors with shares in supplier companies

    I wonder how many non-exec directors and even some Board Directors still have shares in companies they used to manage and these same companies are suppliers to Departments/Agencies they work in!

  16. bugalugs

    Title, anyone ?

    " ....elites in Westminster to individuals, neighbourhoods and communities."

    Should read " Individual community residents in the elite community of Westminster ".

    There, fixed it for them.

  17. David Gale

    That won't wash, Mr Maude

    Mr Maude, the Conservative Party put up their Shadow spokesperson for Science over a year ago with a message that they shared the strategic vision held by key players, for so long ignored by the last administration. We were told that the strategic vision would also herald an end to the cosy contracts that had previously demonstrated a complete absence of governance over IT strategy. We were encouraged.

    Within days of the election the window-dressing had been moved to one side and within weeks the same people were reappointed to key positions within the civil service. It was 'business as normal'. I see no evidence at all of strategic governance over IT and so, what we will end up with is smaller, perhaps more cost-effective contracts that perpetuate the expensive, rats' nest of 'point solutions'. We need a clear IT strategy, NOT policy masquerading as strategy. Once that is in place, we need governance to protect the strategy from the deflective ploys of performance-managed career targets of managers and the short-term sales focus of unscrupulous suppliers,

    I remain unconvinced:

    David Gale


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Vested, but not obvious, interest?

      When unexplained, cross traffic type sudden switches are encountered that seem contrary to trend and recent experience one can guess that a high level but undisclosed decision has been made?

      The unexplainedness shouts volumes in a liberal free society?

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