The Government Digital Service’s (GDS) “state-centric” philosophy is driving risk and it needs to construct a new approach to government IT.
This is according to head of central government at accountancy and business advisory firm BDO Jack Perschke.
Perschke made his opinion clear in a recent blog post on his organisation’s website, following the publication of the BDO GDS Report 2015.
“Had the BDO GDS Service paper been published a couple of years ago, the risks outlined would have been theoretical but, with GDS just past its third birthday, we know that many of the risks it outlines are fast becoming issues,” Perschke claims.
“Accountability is already being blurred. Staff and contractors are no more accountable for high-profile and expensive failures like the Rural Payments Agency Digital Service programme than they ever were.
“Arguably, with advisory and oversight roles being confused, they are less accountable,” he adds.
According to the BDO GDS Report, there are three main risks facing the government’s digital agency: the accountability, commercial and efficiency risks.
The document claims that the GDS hands on approach to advising programmes reduces its independence as a controls authority and blurs the accountability of the responsible department.
It also argues that GDS has a preference for input-based commercial arrangements rather than a more traditional outcomes-based commercial approach and this reduces commercial alignment between the client and suppliers.
Meanwhile, BDO claims that GDS has a monopoly position that compels its client base to come to it for advice, meaning there is a risk that they could become an inefficient organisation removed from the efficiency drivers from the market.
The paper recommends that GDS addresses these three risks by making a clear separation between its controls function and its advisory function.
The firm suggests that GDS integrates its controls approaching into the MPA (Major Projects Authority) gateway review process and ensures market-driven efficiency by forming a joint venture with the private sector.
BDO also claims that GDS must urgently pass over all commercial activities formally to the Crown Commercial Service (CCS).
“Those risks are present, urgent and the result of a state-centric philosophy that belongs in the history books,” claims Perschke.
“The state does not have the answers. GDS does not have the answers. The innovation of the market has the answers; the role of GDS should not be to impose its solutions but to helps its government clients define the questions,” he adds.