Government seeks new IT spending supremo

Peter Gershon is set to leave his government post next year, and the hunt is already on for a successor

Headhunters have started the search to replace the influential Peter Gershon as CEO of the government's procurement watchdog the Office of Government Commerce (OGC). His contract expires next year.

Gershon took the three-year post in 2000 and has made it a key part of the OGC's role to crackdown on the billions of pounds of taxpayers' money wasted on botched public sector IT projects by introducing strict 'gateway' reviews and checks on all new technology programmes.

Such was his influence in the corridors of power and high-profile successes such as negotiating a £100m saving through a central government licensing deal with Microsoft that Gershon was persuaded to stay on an extra year and will now bow out at the end of March 2004.

A headhunting firm has now started searching for someone to fill the position, which offers a £145,000 salary -- although that is somewhat less than Gershon, who was briefly the highest-paid civil servant, currently takes home.

A spokesman for the OGC said there will be a lot of competition for what will be a key role in the government's Common Systems Strategy for standardising IT across the public sector.

"There is no indication or speculation yet as to whether the person will come from the private sector, as Gershon did, or be a senior civil servant. It is wide open but the best person will get the job," he said.

Gershon has not yet publicly revealed his plans for post-OGC life but the spokesman said that now the recruitment process is in the open there are likely to be approaches and lucrative offers from the private sector.

Last month e-envoy Andrew Pinder raised the prospect of a government-wide CIO role being created out of the merging of his own office and the OGC but the OGC spokesman said nothing has yet come of that proposal.