Govt ponders CIO role

The e-Envoy has proposed creating an oversight role that could rein in public sector IT projects

The UK government is looking at appointing a CIO to crack down on public sector IT failures and bring stronger IT leadership and strategic direction across departments.

A proposal has been put forward by the e-Envoy, Andrew Pinder, to create a civil service position that would combine the roles of e-Envoy and the head of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) procurement watchdog into a strategic IT executive for the government.

The contract of the current e-Envoy, Andrew Pinder, is up next year and most of his work to oversee the plans to put government services online by 2005 will be done by then. The contract of Peter Gershon, chief executive of the OGC, is also due to expire next April.

Speaking at an NCC conference, Pinder said that although no formal government policy has been agreed, there are moves to create, under the control of the Cabinet Office and the Treasury, a central CIO role that would be able to get greater efficiencies from economies of scale.

"I've been strongly pushing that we should have a CIO function that amalgamates some of the things I do and some of the things Peter [Gershon] does, as well as some new things," he said.

Given the scale of any government IT project and the history of high-profile failures Pinder said government needs to adopt the same strategic and "board level" approach as the private sector.

"It is something every large organisation already does. It would be helpful to have some stronger IT leadership there," he said.

Pinder hit out at the tendency for government departments and local authorities to keep re-inventing the same thing, and said a CIO would be able to push for more standardisation across the public sector.

"We will be seeing over the next two years or so moves to standardisation and a greater use of packages. It makes a pile of sense to pick the best practice of somewhere. There is no added value in localisation," he said.

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