back to article UK government lines up billions to refresh legacy tech in 600-system tax dept

The UK government's commercial wing has begun to set up a contracting agreement set to be worth up to £4.5 billion ($5.4 billion) for application software services supporting the nation's tax collector. The Crown Commercial Services, which sits within the Cabinet Office, has launched a consultation with tech market suppliers …

  1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Good luck

    After relentlessly ing over the IT community over the years, good luck finding specialists worth their salt willing to do the work.

    I mean they'll find plenty of scabs for sure, as they say pecunia non olet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good luck

      You dont need anyone worth their salt - just look at recent Defence fails such as the Bowman system upgrade to EvO - a third of a billion for literally nothing. And then another contract to re-do the old system!! This isn't about delivering, its about getting as much of those billions as possible.

      You don't need good people for this, they just need two bum cheeks to put on a seat.

      (Apologies for the cynicism but I've seen this too many times now)...

      1. hoola Silver badge

        Re: Good luck

        And much of the problem is the procurement process itself. It is so broken that the only contenders are the same bunch or misfits that screw everything up.

        Then there is the problem that the starting point is a complete shambles of disparate systems stuck together with string all compounded by the constant changes to the tax system.

  2. Warm Braw

    The need in the past to forgo operational maintenance and upgrades...

    ... will come round again. And was partly enabled by the government owing the hardware and being in a position to sweat the assets a bit further.

    Not going to be so easy when it's all in someone else's cloud.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The need in the past to forgo operational maintenance and upgrades...

      Whose cloud? All the UK's tax affairs at the beck and call of the US CLOUD Act?

      1. Roj Blake Silver badge

        Re: The need in the past to forgo operational maintenance and upgrades...

        It's what the Special Relationship is there for.

  3. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Taking all bets

    Crapita or Fuckjitsu

    Also side bets of

    3 years past due date

    5 years past due date

    10 years past due date

    Along with

    'Number of people falsely imprisoned due to IT tax service cock up'

    And not least

    'How many years before owning up to said cock up after previously telling the courts their systems were perfect'

    God I'm cynical

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Taking all bets

      Boris the Coakroach,

      I will take your bet, if you take 'Dogecoins' !!!

      1. Crapita as part of a consortium (No-one is going to take this on alone .... AKA 'Spread the blame'.

      2. For complete replacement of all 600 systems .... 10+ years past due date .... never will replace all 600 !!!

      3. Number of people falsely charged due to Tax cock up. .... No takers as this is the text book definition of 'absolute certainty'.

      4. 'How many years before owning up to said cock up after previously telling the courts their systems were perfect' ..... no takers as the payout date is too far into the future .... Rigor Mortis is more likely to arrive than the actual payout.

      5. Cynical, Moi !!!??? ...... Of course I am, I live in the UK and have seen it all before BUT somehow it never is seen by the people who spend out 'Tax Dollars' as the 'Muricans' say !!!


    2. Dr. G. Freeman

      Re: Taking all bets

      Given one of the Prime Minister candidates, Infosys can't be ruled out for the contract.

      Going for 12 years late, and at least double the cost, and by that point the systems will be out of date again, so new contract drawn up to replace them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't worry...

      India is ready to sell UK its new tax software....

  4. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "It serves 45 million citizens and more than 5 million business taxpayers"

    Strange use of the verb "to serve" in the context of HMRC. It used to be called the "excise" because it excises a big chunk of everyone's dosh.

    HMRC used to refer to the public as its "customers", but when I once said to a tax inspector "if I'm a customer I think I'll take my business somewhere else" he wasn't amused.

    1. nijam Silver badge

      Re: "It serves 45 million citizens and more than 5 million business taxpayers"

      > Strange use of the verb "to serve" in the context of HMRC.

      In any other context, "tax" would be what the courts refer to as "demanding money with menaces".

      Still, those billions to (fail to) replace those old systems have to come from somewhere.

      Apropos that, how much would it cost to employ clerks with quill pens to operate the tax system? IBM (It's Better Manually), as we used to say.

  5. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Just like Dallas

    In a few years we'll wake up to find it was all a dream, and HMRC is still running on 600 old systems.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Just like Dallas

      Indeed. The Joint Replacement will die, leading to the Chief Shill desperately seeking a scapegoat and demanding at every opportunity, "Who killed JR?"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just like Dallas

      I am sure they'll be using Victorian Principles ....

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    600 systems, 800 terabytes of data, 1,000 IT changes a month and a 24/7 IT operation.

    Right f**king there are the reasons for guaranteed failure.

    Not the 800TB of data. Large (but I'll bet CERN or NASA and certainly GCHQ manage bigger datasets)

    Nor the 24/7. Not sure why most of them need this. Customs yes, but unless every UK subject has online access to their tax details (or is expected to) why this?

    No it's those other 2. 600 systems -->599 interfaces which can (and probably will) change. And close to 2 IT changes per month/per system. Yet some of those systems have (I'm fairly sure) been in for decades. Their change rate should be zero.

    What's the bet each of those changes will trigger further unlocalised system changes, necessitating work on other parts of a system, that triggers changes to other systems. Glenford Myers has a really nice thought experiment about software coupling usinga a 10x10 light array. Set them to a random pattern. Then choose wheather a light should be on or off on the next cycle based on the current state of a number of other lamps in the array (chosen also at random). If it's one lamp then the pattern becomes quite stable quite fast, 10 other lamps quite slow. Every lamp dependent on every other lamp takes a very long time to achieve stability. I always thought it would make a cool program just to watch.

    And in a country about 500Km wide and about 800Km long (excluding NI) how many data centres will this take to run on?

    The PAO might as well start righting up the report now. We all know they won't bother with actually agreed success (or failure) metrics because (heaven forbid) that might mean someone could have failed. With no internal resouces to offer independent oversight or sanity checking (because competent civil service pensions were sooooo expensive) they will be told (and believe) any old bu***hit the con-tractors and con-sultants tell them and of course it will take so long (years I expect) to get a decision that only "The Usual Suspects(tm)" will have the financial endurance to stay in till it gets awarded and they can start making out like the bandits they seem to behave like (based on past behaviour ad-nausem).

    1. herman

      Chaotic neon bulb flasher

      It is easy to build a neon bulb flasher where every bulb depends on every other bulb. It will flash chaotically for a while, then it will settle into a fairly regular pattern and then gradually become chaotic again and so on. It can be quite interesting to watch.

  7. Ball boy Silver badge

    NHS IT, anyone?

    The NHS project cost, what £9Billion and struggled, partly because different stakeholders couldn't agree on what was required of it. Now, I'm not suggesting big, complex IT systems are beyond management - but consider this: those that get to do the initial sign-off will be long out of office before the delivery date, the underlying requirements will change - sometimes annually - with each administration and it's absolutely critical for the UK that the system works. That doesn't strike me as a stable base to work from.

    I project: it'll run massively over budget (I'll stick my neck out for a headline figure of triple the stated spend, way more if you include the knock-on costs and contractual clauses for termination, etc), it won't meet the objectives that were set and certainly won't meet the ones that are, by then, currently expected and no one will be held responsible for any of it.

    Mind you, several big IT consulting firms will make a tidy profit. Lawyers too. All funded by, ironically, the tax-payer.

  8. nijam Silver badge

    > "less dependent upon legacy technologies."

    Sounds like knocking down old slums to make space to build new slums.

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