back to article And so it begins... Cleaning up HMRC's £10.7bn Aspire mess

HMRC is to follow the lead set by the Met Police by setting up a private company to run elements of the tech estate that currently fall under the scope of the failing multi-billion pound Aspire contract. This is the first step HMRC is taking to replace Aspire – the largest single tech contract in UK public sector, which it is …

  1. codejunky Silver badge


    During the transition to a new system be prepared to be charged incorrectly and given the wrong tax codes again. Hopefully the new system will be better. I doubt many will expect it but it would be nice. It would certainly be nice if the tax collectors can reduce their cost to us tax payers.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    Let me get this straight...

    The issues have been transferred from a publicly accountable body to a private company about which HMRC can (among other things) turn away all FoI requests with "commercial confidentiality"?

    Smells like a cover up in progress to me.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Oh how cynical.

      Yet how plausible.

      Surely it's only a coincidence ?

  3. Tim Jenkins

    ...cost taxpayers £10.7bn... ...was anticipated to cost £4.1bn....

    Only 2-and-a-bit-times over budget? Actually not bad by Government IT project standards; I do hope somebody got a knighthood at least...


    1. Elmer Phud

      Now we realise why Osborne needs to apply the thumbscrews - he already knows how much dosh has been or is about to be pissed away.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "...cost taxpayers £10.7bn... ...was anticipated to cost £4.1bn...."

      Aspire is a services and procurement framework, not a singular contract. When it was originally spec'd the expected spend was approx £4bn. Actual services procured through the contract are the £10.7bn figure. It's not that it's 2.5x over budget, more like HMRC have bought 2.5x more than they expected over the time frame.

      When you bear in mind that time period (c. 10 years) has involved the delivery of online self assessment, RTI, tax credits and a whole raft of behind-the-scenes analytics programmes that shouldn't really surprise anyone.

      Which is why this will be closely watched (and why PAC are concerned). Last time around HMRC underestimated their own services by more than a factor of two. This time round they've got the pleasure of having to do it with no in-house project management or procurement capability. One little known fact of Aspire is that until very recently all PM and PMO activity was handled by Capgemini (i.e. Capgemini managed Capgemini contracts, heh). Last count had the number of active agreements within the framework at something like 17,000.

      Between novation and this tiny little TUPE they've taken over all of 10.

      2017 is the end date for Aspire. Yeah, right.

  4. D Moss Esq

    HMRC's debt to GDS

    You say: Mark Delaney, HMRC chief digital and information officer, claimed it will run a "mixed model of both internal and external delivery using multiple partners".

    Do you perhaps intend Mark Dearnley?

    Assuming that you do, readers should know that his strategy is for HMRC to agree with GDS*.

    That's not the only difference between HMRC and DEFRA. DEFRA is tiny compared to HMRC, which accounts for over 70% of central government transaction volumes (if you believe GDS dashboard statistics) – HMRC IT is central government IT.

    Let's hope that Mr Dearnley has a few better ideas. He may otherwise be well advised to change his name to Delaney.


    * Shocking thought, but anyone who can't be bothered to read HMRC's strategy can see a digest here.

  5. Synonymous Howard

    Maybe they might then be able to take my wife's Voluntary Class 3 NI contributions that she has been trying to give them for over six months (took a long while to get 'validated' and then confirm what was payments were missing; still not had the printed version promised months ago, just verbal figures) .. and the doozy was that she was on the phone to HMRC last night and they said to her 'you can't pay voluntary NI' and then claimed they didn't know what this was ...

    Won't even take our money when offered!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I wonder how many contractors they'll be taking on outside IR35 since the Tories decided to hike corporation tax on small businesses?

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Has anyone at HMRC clocked that a private company will need to pay VAT on it's purchases?

    1. RPF

      Maybe it will be based in Luxembourg?

      Or perhaps HMRC will be as tough on them as they were (not) with Amazon?

  8. Erik4872

    Sounds like a good idea

    In the US, we're no stranger to failed gov't IT projects either, and it's always IBM, HP, Accenture, CSC and their like walking away with millions for delivering nothing.

    It sounds like this might be a good way to run projects -- set up a not for profit company, basically controlled by the contracting entity, and keep it in existence for the life of the project they're building/running. You get the flexibility in hiring, the control to make sure the company doesn't go off the rails overbilling and endlessly submitting change orders, and the fact that, at least on paper, companies with a checkered history of delivering anything don't end up profiting.

    1. Mark 110

      Re: Sounds like a good idea

      It is an idea with merit.

      But then you need to have the organizational capability to set that company up, have it acquire the necessary resources, and build the necessary delivery capability and systems to run effectively and efficiently. UK Government used to have that capability in all sorts of areas not just IT. It was never as efficient or effective as a private company but at least they had control and didn't have someone skimming 20% off the top (well maybe the staff - but better staff than shareholders).

      Since they outsourced (everything - from prisons, to social care, to IT to school diinners to staff catering to cleaning to . . .) they no longer have the capability. Probably the one area of government big enough to start to rebuild it is HMRC and maybe that's the plan.

      The alternative would be to build a proper governance capability to manage departments and suppliers. The PAC just criticizes after the fact. They need a Department of Supplier Management or something. Central expertise in stopping the big outsource providers taking the piss. Stopping departments signing silly agreements. Ideally staffed by former employees of the big outsources who know the game and how to counter.

      Much better just to bring it back in house and get the control back in my humble opinion.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sounds like a good idea

        Sounds like your saying the "Outsourcing to specialists" experiment has failed....

        No surely not?

        Mind you that said it is increasingly hard to find outsourcing contracts that have delivered the projected benefits; especially in the Public sector.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Project Names - how prophetic?

    New definitions....Ass Pyre - the place where your ass (arse) gets roasted to well done when you royally screw up a public sector IT job

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The HMRC systems debacle will continue for as long as HMRC continue to be the client.

    When you have a client whose mandarins refuse to attend meetings, who refuse to sign off on requirements & designs, who instantly blame everyone but themselves when things aren't completed or correct simply because THEY refused to make decisions, it's easy to see how HMRC has a reputation as one of the worst clients in the industry.

    1. Mark 110

      Lots of clients are like that. Maybe if they bring it back in house they will have to take responsibility. The whole point of outsourcing is you don't want to.

    2. Cpt Blue Bear

      Meh, that describes one very common career strategy for climbing a business bureaucracy greasy pole. Its a way to progress beyond the seniority limit implied by the Peter Principle.

      I was in a meeting yesterday with a middle aged senior manager who got where he is by never being party to a decision made by less than three people. The theory is, I guess, that if it goes pear shaped he can always claim he was against it all along but out voted by the others. The man could equivocate for his country.

  11. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    How does it cost £10.70 p to collect £500 don't they know anyone that can count?

    Have they missed the economy of scale bus?

  12. Boshay

    I think you've missed the fact that it's £500 billion collected per year, so over the 13-year contract that's about 82 pence per £500 collected which doesn't seem like too bad VFM to me?

    Maybe it's not just them who can't count?

  13. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Am I missing something?

    "HMRC is to follow the lead set by the Met Police by setting up a private company ...

    The new limited company, wholly owned by HMRC, ..."

    If HMRC (a government body) sets up a private company wholly owned by HMRC ... doesn't that by inference make it a government body not a private company?

    Or is it another QUANGO, untouchable by Parliament, with a load of political cronies on the board who rake off "the profits" as directors that would have headed to Aspire?

    Is this the start of a new 80's style QUANGO-rush ...?

  14. happy but not clappy

    Counting the "digital"s

    My browser satys there are 216 uses of the word "digital" in the linked strategy. Huzzah!

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