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Re: [Fsfe-uk] Cheats!

From: Simon Waters
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Cheats!
Date: Sat, 04 Feb 2006 10:46:41 +0000
User-agent: Debian Thunderbird 1.0.7 (X11/20051017)

David M wrote:
> Heck, if the NHS is really spending that much on software, it almost
> begs the question as to why they don't set up their own (arms-length, if
> need be) software development division, costing less overall (possibly
> providing future sales potential), and soaking up large numbers of
> underemployed IT professionals in the meantime?

I suspect lots of reasons, mostly inertia.

You have to realise that the civil service doesn't think like a business.

No where is business would you have such obscenities as National
Insurance, and Income tax, lets have two independent systems for taxing
peoples incomes, one progressive, one regressive. It is both unfair
(National Insurance taxes the poor unduely), inefficient (just look at
the NI computer system fiasco, let alone separate systems for charging
it all). Every so often someone proposes abolishing National Insurance,
and the civil service spins into self defence mode.

Most of its history, staff and capital budgets were seperated upto
director level, so only a director could ever institute a change that
involved trading capital for staff posts, or vice-versa. And union
pressure made it difficult to ever reverse a decision to trade capital
for staff, since you couldn't easily get rid of the staff. Such pressure
drive bizarre decisions.

The NHS spent a fortune to agencies for supplying nurses and related
staff on a short term contract basis, before one of the bigger
healthcare trusts realised they could save a fortune if they set up
their own agency. Once that happened everyone realised it was a good
idea. This could happen because the senior manager responsible for both
hiring costs, and staff costs, was delegated to the hospital management,
and he had pressure to fix things.

Whilst software is scattered freely from above like confetti, the
hospital managers have no reason to query the purchasing procedures.
Doesn't obviously affect their budgets, if they deviate from the stuff
from above it costs them, ergo their hands are effectively tied. I hear
comments even from the IT group in the NHS, that such deviations as
using MacOS by designers is a big cost overhead, as the Mac versions of
MS software isn't covered, one off purchases of such software are of
course almost full retail price.

There is also a huge perceived risk factor, given the huge lack of
success of most big government IT projects, would you as a career civil
servant recommend another one, versus paying someone only too happy to
take the money, and supply you a lightly rebranded version of their
current off the shelf product which you are already using?

I think Ian is probably on the mark, the contract should have been
pushed to open tender, and in answer to who can afford to dispute it -
I'd suggest IBM, SUN or Novell as likely candidates. Central purchasing
may have kept Microsoft in there at the moment, but of course it does
mean that all the eggs are in one basket. Be assured they'll be watching
that basket carefully.

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