back to article Fujitsu and Capgemini's giga-quid HMRC lashup given drubbing by govt auditors

In yet another example of a sprawling government contract gone monumentally wrong – the second of the day – HMRC has splashed £7.9bn on an IT outsourcing deal that is looking very tough to justify. Capgemini and Fujitsu won the ten-year Aspire deal – a merged Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise contract – way back in 2004, and …

  1. gerryg

    let's remember some history

    2007 the accountants: HMRC's 10-year IT contract balloons to £8.5 billion

    2012 the techies If HMRC’s experience is anything to go by, outsourcing can, in the long-term, at least triple an organisation’s IT costs.

    Francis Maude failed to do anything about it but luckily a Parliamentary Select Committee has noticed so who knows what might happen next

    1. Matt 21

      Re: let's remember some history

      Also interesting to note:

      In house government civil servant IT projects were often late or over budget or delivered the wrong thing.

      Outsourced government IT projects are often late or over budget or delivered the wrong thing.

      So it seems the fault isn't with the in house staff as using the private sector has produced the same, if not, worse results.

      It's almost as if the problem is with the government...................

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was EDS, in their pre-HP incarnation, who ran The Revenue's IT before Aspire took over. HP had nothing to do with it, while the contract extension was made four years into the contract, I.e. six years ago, not this spring.

  3. gizmo23

    Over budget

    The Aspire project is over budget! And in other news a government research project into the religious beliefs of the Pope concludes that Christianity may be involved. When I was at Fujitsu (not on Aspire) the client PMs either didn't understand that once the contract was signed, ANY changes cost money or they didn't care that they were spending their own money (as taxpayers).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Over budget

      Aspire is rare amongst government contracts in that it has almost never gone over budget which is why, despite its mammoth size as the biggest outsourcing contract almost anywhere, most people have never heard of it, or Capgemini (cf. Atos).

      You've misunderstood the crux of the article. The point the NAO is making is that HMRC originally signed a c. £4bn contract, but that contract was a pure outsourcing deal. Kit and infrastructure and support. Anyone who works on Aspire today can tell you it is far more comprehensive than that. Anything technology related is run through Aspire by Capgemini, Accenture or Fujitsu. You need a SAS model produced, altered or run to answer a parliamentary question? That's going to be Capgemini. A report on who the database says has outstanding tax bills? That's going to be Capgemini. Need a PC moving from Desk 13 to Desk 14? That'll be a support ticket and a FJS bod billing an hour at his day rate, thanks.

      All of these practically operational tasks were tacked onto the Aspire framework later on. It's now, at the end of its life, not just an infrastructure/support outsourcing deal, but a comprehensive purchasing and workshare agreement allowing HMRC to obtain any of the Aspire company's offerings. Actually, in many cases it outright *forces* them to go to those companies first, but the terms aren't tremendously unfair.

      The reason HMRC is in such a pickle is they now have absolutely zero in-house technology capacity. From my work with them (through the Aspire contract), not a single level of their organisation, except perhaps new ex-telco CTO Mark Dearnley and their GDS guys (procured through Aspire but "owned" in house) has any level of understanding of technology, its procurement, its operation or its purpose. That's because for the last ten years everything techie has been Aspire, and before that it was EDS.

      They're the object lesson in what happens when an organisation gets outsourcing happy. They no longer even have the capability to procure a replacement for Aspire.

      That said, despite the contract's pitfalls, and they are many, HMRC have had a pretty good run of it. I'll first point you back to my note that almost no one outside of the IT contracting world has heard of Aspire or Capgemini, and remind you all that the Aspire contract survived the merger of the Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise systems without missing a beat, has seen the transition to digital tax filings and the new digital-first strategy and have seen substantial yield improvements from application of modern analytics techniques, all through Aspire.

      Meanwhile universal credit has already cost half a billion quid and has delivered precisely nowt. Three words to sum up Aspire? Could be worse.

  4. The Godfather

    Guaranteed money fountains...

    These well over-priced and woefully delivered services...

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    So having sold off *all* your in house skills to an outsourcer you have no skills to manage them


    Oh wait, maybe you can hire some one else to manage it for you IE outsource the outsource managing.

    Indeed what could possibly go wrong with such a plan?

    1. 's water music

      Quis custodiet ipsos ex quo

      Oh wait, maybe you can hire some one else to manage it for you IE outsource the outsource managing.

      Indeed what could possibly go wrong with such a plan?

      I understand that Fj and CG have plenty of relevant experience and an established billing relationship....

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    been there, done that

    HMRC was always going to get screwed by ASPIRE. they narrowed the scope of the contract so much that all the EDS managers that I knew at the time were loving it. So much would be out of scope of ASPIRE that it would be billed separately Kerr-Ching!

    the main failing of both the previous EDS and ASPIRE contracts is that the revenue doesn't know what it wants. Add to that changes in the taxation system imposed by successive governments and you end up with a whole heap of work that's out of scope.

    DoTF was a classic example of HMRC not knowing what it wanted. The idea was great - a completely desktop agnostic infrastructure. the client could run everything in a browser. Any browser, any OS; IE, Firefox, Opera, Safari on Windows, Linux, Apple. And it worked. Except to make it work, security was largely ignored. It met the spec exactly. The revenue loved it. It was exactly what they'd asked for. until it was pen tested. Then it was £40M* down the toilet, never to be spoken of again. I still cherish my DoTF mug to remind me how wisely my taxes are spent.

    AC because I might still be here

    *OK, it's no Nimrod or Aircraft Carrier, but it's still £40M

  7. simonpetrel

    So Aspire never once managed to pay my company, a small supplier, on time in over two years. What do I care when they billed £10.4 Billion? We cocked up online payments for two VAT quarters 1 day late on the first, 2 days late on the 2nd and we got hit with £13K of 'surcharges'

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