Controversial Aspire Contract
What was controversial about the Aspire contract again? I can't remember.
IT consultancy and services company Capgemini has signed a £51m agreement to continue supporting UK tax systems first created under a contract HMRC has been planning to replace since 2015. The French firm was awarded the three-year deal to support Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs' Enterprise Tax Management Platform (ETMP) …
Mainly that it was bloody massive and went on forever. It was a £10Bn, 13+ year contract for an exclusive set of suppliers. That was shaky ground for procurement practices even then and by today's standards of G-cloud and standardised call offs and purchasing frameworks looks like lunacy in terms of the amount of risk it concentrated onto two or three main suppliers.
However (and whisper this quietly) it is probably one of the most effective and cost-effective IT procurement and operations programs in the history of government. As a good contrast, it is a contemporary of and similar in size to the NPfIT that all-but destroyed the NHS's technology landscape for two decades.
That's why Cap and to a lesser extent Fujitsu keep picking up work even though Aspire itself is long-since over - HMRC don't really want to give it to anyone else. Things are mostly working well and between austerity, brexit and covid there hasn't been any budget to do anything other than steady-state for nearly ten years.
> That was shaky ground for procurement practices even then
Except that Cap & Fujitsu took over from the previous incumbents who were EDS & ICL/Fujitsu. So one area of controversy / concern was the belief that these megadeals resulted in permanent supplier lock-in
Cap successfully took over the contract from EDS - which busted the lock-in myth - and then (at the end of the Aspire contract) supported HMRC as it successfully moved back to using multiple suppliers - so the lock-in myth was busted again.
First, its a French company, even if it employs some Brits the enormous profits it makes will end up back in France, what idiot, or maybe which civil servants are receiving the bungs, that mean someone classes sending yet more of our hard earned money abroad is a good idea??????
Second, surely it is time to understand that if a computer system takes this much to build then it is clear the underlying problem it is trying to solve is massively too complicated. To that end the best thing to do is to simplify the tax and benefits system.
So a single flat benefit to all above 18 legally entitled to be here, this prevents them starving to death (and shouldnt really do much more).
A single flat tax to fund government. Now that tax could either be on income or it could be a sales tax, doesnt matter to me which BUT if it is on income that is what it should be INCOME and that includes for companies. The tax man has been arsing around with ir35 trying to prevent small companies and one man bands from hiding 'profit' as 'expenses' (its nonsense of course) while allowing the likes of starbucks, amazon et al to do EXACTLY that.. oh it costs us for the 'licence' from 'head office' to use the 'starbucks' name... and that of course cuts the 'profit' in the UK to... ooh. zero, while of course the head office is by some perchance not related to where maximum business is done, or the founders started it, or even where the actual CEO et al sit.... just happens to be in the Caymans or some other zero tax tax haven.
Given sorting this out I reckon we could write about 50 lines of C code to run the entire countries tax and benefits
> First, its a French company, even if it employs some Brits the enormous profits it makes will end up back in France
Capgemini is a public company listed on the Paris stock exchange and therefore the recipients of these "enormous profits" of which you speak are its shareholders. Last time I looked anyone of any nationality could buy shares on the Paris stock exchange.
> Second, surely it is time to understand that if a computer system takes this much to build then it is clear the underlying problem it is trying to solve is massively too complicated. To that end the best thing to do is to simplify the tax and benefits system.
You're pushing at an open door here. However, a lot of the 'problem' is simply that the economy is diverse and complicated so a one size fits all tax system, though simple to implement, would be massively unfair to a significant proportion of tax payers whether people and businesses. The catch is that it would be unfair in many different ways resulting in calls for many different 'exceptions'.
I agree with both your points but would add the following to the second point-
While it is a complicated task to create a system that reflects the current tax system how do you factor in for yet unspecified future changes to the tax system? A change may be announced next week and several more in the next month. Certainly more changes in the Budget. Some may just be simple rate adjustments while other changes may be a new tax or the combination of taxes.
Who knows what the Chancellor will dream up next?
Or, for example, a national crisis may hit that requires the government to very suddenly and very quickly pay an unfathomable amount of money to almost every employer in the land to stop the economy collapsing under the weight of said crisis as everyone stays home.
Which is of course not a hypothetical. This was achieved by rapidly adapting existing sources of data and existing monetary flows from systems like HMRC's RTI (the thing that actually does your PAYE), and essentially reversing the flood of money back out to employers in record time.
"Simplify the system" is the refrain of simple people who don't really know what they're talking about.
This contract has never been value for money. The only way that it represents good value is if you consider "better than the previous sharks" to be good value. I saw directly some of non-competitive procurements that were run for core infrastructure where Cap consultants awarded supply contracts to Cap..... The tax payer was paying list price x6 or more in some cases.
This was justified on the basis of "it's complicated" but this was for basic infrastructure like servers, networks and storage where the average public sector customer was getting 50-60% discount off list. Then there was service management costs, they wanted 10x the cost that an average service provider would charge for a similar service. Then there was the massively over complicated project and governance structure designed to multiply the number of Cap consultants engaged on the contract.
Just asking, as from my time on Aspire, the vast majority of posts were IR35 employee.
But then as we know, as far as HMRC are concerned CG et al are paying the 'correct' amount of PAYE and NI on their gross invoices; one rule for the small fry and one rule for the big boys... Don't see HMRC "levelling up"...
My last contract with CapGem - you were Inside IR35 no matter what. They were taking no chances, and lost a large number of contractors because of that. Unless you were a particularly grubby little PM who managed to mislead everyone about how the project was going, then bollocked anyone who told the truth, and then went from contract to a nice fat permie position...