Inbox: "Stupendous incompetence" from DfT

"It's a kick in the teeth, paying taxes and having them squandered like this"

"It's a kick in the teeth, paying taxes and having them squandered like this"

The weekly Inbox column collects the best and most thought-provoking of the reader comments silicon.com receives each week.
The latest government department to come under fire from silicon.com readers is the Department for Transport, due to the accusation it exercised "stupendous incompetence" in a shared services deal - find out more below. Also attracting some comments was a story claiming bobbies on the beat need crime 'breathalysers', and the Naked CIO got readers reaching for their keyboards - but, this week, some actually agreed with our resident columnist.

Don't forget to post your own response to any of these stories or comments below.


Department for Transport "incompetence" over shared services
The Department for Transport (DfT) has been accused of "stupendous incompetence" in its implementation of a shared services centre that aimed to save £57m but will now cost the taxpayer £81m.

Same old story
More government IT disasters. As ever beggaring belief. So much for Gateway reviews... No wonder no one believes a word they say about the NHS NPfIT [National Program for IT].
Anonymous, Birmingham

Where are all the experts?
The government has got rid of all internal expertise. As a professional engineer in the civil service I saw it happening and it has continued since I retired. The result is that administrators with no technical knowledge ask consultants of unknown expertise for advice on the construction of a service they can only vaguely define. The results appear in articles like this at frequent intervals and will continue to do so.
misceng, UK

Kick in the teeth
Are we surprised? Probably not. The hard pill to swallow is that they are taking 51 per cent of my hard earned bonus (a bonus for doing so well) and that will probably be wasted by them when I need it the most... it's a kick in the teeth. I don't mind paying tax but only when it's not squandered like this.
Richard Davies, North Yorkshire

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UK police: 'We need crime breathalysers for PCs'
UK police are hoping to one day develop a breathalyser-style tool for computers that could instantly flag up illegal activity on any PC it's attached to.

"What they want is completely impossible"
What they want is completely impossible. There is a very good reason why it takes a trained lab of computer forensics experts to extract evidence of illegal activities from a computer. There is no one "signature" that illegal activity leaves behind in a computer's hard drive.

Furthermore, any criminal worth the expense of developing such a tool to catch would almost certainly have the intelligence to either encrypt the data of his wrongdoing, or do it on a separate computer or a USB flash drive.
Dan Aris, Upstate NY, USA

Spyware
They already have this. It's called spyware.
Justin K. Reeve, USA

Breathe here
Simply plugging a device into a computer to discover illegal activity is not at all like having someone breathe into a tube to determine whether or not they are drunk.

It is more like having someone breathe into a tube to determine whether or not they like as certain kind of music.
Anonymous, North Carolina

What about the real criminals?
It is idiot ideas that cost the taxpayers billions of pounds so that the police can keep tabs on the innocent majority whilst the real criminals get away.
Anonymous, London

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Naked CIO: The pointless end-of-year rush
Why are IT departments always inundated with requests in December? It's just another example of how little the business understands us.

Poor planning
Any rush at any time of year normally comes as a result of poor planning by the business community and IT at a senior management level. I agree that "business leaders need to think in terms of practical deliverables and timing". I also understand the natural desire to 'clear the books' at the year end.
Peter B. Giblett, Toronto, Ontario

Change of tradition
I agree with you but there are a few exceptions: regulations and fiscal changes often go into effect on 1 January. The financial industry is primarily affected by this, but many or most other sectors also.

Maybe we should try to change the tradition by only allowing the timing for these requests to be 1 May and 1 October. I know a company that has effectively done that and allows only few exceptions. A draconian measure but after two years everyone had gotten used to it and they were able to relax the rule.
René de Wind, Netherlands

Use it or lose it
In my experience the end of the calendar year frenzy is due to the "use it or lose it" mentality of corporate budgets which are based on the previous years' expenditures and then given a percentage increase.
Dave, Cincinnati, USA

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