back to article Gov IT contractors hire staff in India to work on benefits system

Hundreds of computer technicians in India are being hired to help develop an IT system for the government's universal credit welfare programme, work potentially worth hundreds of millions of pounds, despite promises that large data projects would remain in the UK. Workers in Bangalore and Mumbai are being hired by the …


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  1. David Hicks

    False Economy

    The problem is the way this is done to budget.

    You get the cheapest price from an outsourcing agreement, but that totally neglects the wider effects that the price -

    Goes out of the UK econonomy

    Doesn't take into account anything that would come back in taxes if kept in the UK

    Could be, but now isn't, stimulating economic growth.

    Now I know that if the government said "UK Only" then they'd get in trouble with various UN trade agencies and the EU, but IMHO these agreements need to be revised. I agree with free trade as a principle, particularly as it applies to the private sector, I just can't agree with sending masses of tax money out of the country when there's so much unemployment at home.

    1. jm83

      Re: False Economy

      Exactly the same logic as the 'cut jobs / austerity drive to boost the economy'.

      1. David Hicks

        Re: austerity

        No, it's not the same logic at all.

        The public sector is huge and expensive and needs trimming. There is the same problem, you need to do it without depressing the economy further. However 'sending all the money abroad' and 'not spending as much on the public sector' are different phenomena. The hope with the latter is that the tax burden eventually falls (or doesn't have to rise), which stimulates the economy by not taking the money out of the public's pockets in the first place.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: False Economy

      "In relation to cost, the greater the amount of development work we can do offshore, the lower the overall blended rate for the programme"

      Yes, but that ignores the costs of paying our workers to do nothing. You'd think the gubbermint would look at the larger picture ffs. Yes it may cost more *as a project* to deliver it in the UK, but the net benefit to UK PLC of having lots of workers earning, paying tax and spending their decent salaries, less the dole we would be paying them if the jobs were India must be helathier for our economy, Shirley?

      I understand the time argument, but from my experience of using Devs in India, it is false economy as the project invariably needs "rescuing" later on as the remote developing is not as efficient at picking up (for example) usability problems early, when they are relatively cheap to fix..

      1. Vic

        Re: False Economy

        > Yes, but that ignores the costs of paying our workers to do nothing.


        > You'd think the gubbermint would look at the larger picture ffs.


        > Yes it may cost more *as a project* to deliver it in the UK

        Or it might not.

        the headline figure will be lower for the offshored project. But will it run to budget?

        A UK-delivered project might actually end up being *cheaper*, despite a more expensive initial quote.


      2. binky_256
        Thumb Down

        Re: False Economy

        I currently work for a bank which is doing the same thing (but with IT architecture roles).

        a few observations about this whole "blended rate" malarkey.

        - the quality of the offshore workers is for the large part dismal. Sure, there are a few diamonds there but for the most part the the quality of worker just isn't there. Invariably, there's additional oversight that's needed from a local resource in order to get the desired quality

        - from my experience, the work may be around the clock but that either means that you're always out of synch with a particular person OR you speak to someone new every time. Not exactly an ideal way to deliver a critical project, is it?

        - the amount of additional governance and controls to ensure that the work being done is as per spec, as well as all of the additional controls around sensitive data going out of the organisation and country just adds more money to the bottom line

        this doesn't make sense, and the middle/senior manage who authorised this should be taken out and flogged have having the wrong sort of backbone. They should back UK IT girls and guys, not ship it off to save a few quid.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      we were promised jobs

      yet the 'new jobs' have been created abroad. So not only do we miss out on jobs, we miss out on training and skills, we miss out on taxes generated from the jobs and we miss out on the spending that would be made in our shops.

      5 own goals........

  2. Thoguht Silver badge

    Offshoring jobs to help the unemployed? Such delicious irony...

    1. Ken 16 Silver badge

      the unemployed of the UK aren't developers

      The DWP want 3rd parties to provide systems and shoulder risk and they want the lowest bidder, with a cost case which requires Global resourcing.

      If the DWP were prepared to pay a little more, they could near-shore to EU resources in middle Europe and get better productivity at the expense of some communications barriers.

      If the DWP wanted to train UK unemployed to develop, then use them to develop their systems at government risk then they could do so. It'd cost a lot more and take a lot longer but then there'd be skilled resources to pimp out to other countries.

      1. Just Thinking

        Re: the unemployed of the UK aren't developers

        Most of the developers I worked with, certainly in my early career, were self taught. These days it is easier than ever to teach yourself programming.

        Anybody who has been sat on their arse for however many months/years, drawing benefits and watching Jeremy Kyle, without realising that teaching themselves to program the computer in the corner might be some help ... probably doesn't have what it takes. How are you going to train them to be decent developers?

    2. Khaptain Silver badge

      2nd thought on Irony

      There was a time when Indians left India in order to come to the UK for work, etc...

      What happens, the work gets outsourced to india.......Catch 22..

      1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        22nd thought on Irony

        Maybe they are planning ahead.

        All the Asian workers not employed in the all night corner shops will go home to find work maybe as taxi drivers to the already employed over there. Or suppliers of westernised oriental peripatetic provisions.

  3. grip

    Re: False economy

    And you thought the rest of the world are dumb to agree to your highly biased demands.?

    A long time ago, the West accused the rest of the world of protecting their markets. Some 25 years later, things have come full circle.

    And the funny thing is, you think this is reversible.

    Keep dreaming.

    Your anger is better vented against your own IT managers and business leaders. Oh wait - they are in Caribbean islands!

    1. David Hicks
      Thumb Down

      Re: False economy

      Oh I see, you disagree with the concept of free markets. That's not what I was talking about.

      I do think it's wrong to restict access to consumers and workforces, I don't think it's wrong to have a preference to spend taxpayer money locally. These are different things.

  4. Jah

    Ministers ex-Business People, really?

    I cannot understand how Ministers make such silly decisions. I thought many had Business backgrounds; they should be looking at how Government expenditure maximises economic benefits not just looking at drive down costs!

    1. Blofeld's Cat

      Re: Ministers ex-Business People, really?

      "I thought many [ministers] had Business backgrounds"

      On the contrary, most ministers and MPs have no experience of life outside local, regional, or national government. Many started their careers as Research Assistants and climbed the political slippery pole from there.

      The same is true of the civil servants that advise them. They have nearly all spent their careers within one Whitehall department or another. External advisers usually have an agenda of their own to promote.

      The few politicians of all parties that do have a business, or scientific, background tend to stand out from the crowd. They can often be found safely tucked away in sub-committees.

      Sadly these are not the people that do well inside political parties. A mediocre person will rarely promote anyone who can challenge or disprove their own views.

      1. boltar Silver badge

        Re: Ministers ex-Business People, really?

        It could be worse, we could have a PM who's nothing but a cluess PR spiv - all talk and spin but no action.

        Oh... wait....

  5. Andrew 63

    But what about the many million unemployed.....

    ..... In this country?

    Typical *CON*servative Government.

    1. Velv Silver badge

      Re: But what about the many million unemployed.....

      Except these agreements were kicked off by the previous administration, although I will grant you it was the current administration who continued them

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: But what about the many million unemployed.....

      "...Typical *CON*servative Government..."

      About the third time this week I've heard similar sentiments expressed. Let me fix it for you:

      "...Typical Government..."

      I knew this would happen!

      Democracy seems to work on the principle that the populace have a collective memory only slightly longer than that of a goldfish. When Labour were in power, fucking us over royally, with practically every law they brought in, everyone conveniently forgot what a bunch of Nazis Thatcher and her successors had been and couldn't wait to get Labour out and vote the Tories and old "C3P0 made of spam" back in.

      Now the Tories have been in power for ten minutes, everyone has likewise forgotten what a bunch of tossers Labour were and are now whingeing about 'Tory gummint' and doubtless preparing to vote Millipede and co. in again, next time.

      Jeebus people! try and focus for more than ten minutes and on something apart from 'Zzz-elebrity Paint-Drying on Fat Ice'.

      Take the Red Pill FFS!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Accenture again?

    Perhaps putting our money ( the government administers it on the nation's behalf) with other companies would be a boost to the economy and encourage competition.

  7. Blofeld's Cat


    A politician lied, who would have thought it?

    I'm sure there are competent and ethical IT companies in India, but the projects I worked on all seem to have chosen the other ones.

    The main problem we faced was that there seemed to be a culture of not reporting problems, or delays, which were then covered up by shipping incomplete or buggy code just before the delivery date.

    This became clear to nearly everyone very early on. Once "final" modules started being delivered, the project managers, also got the idea that something might be wrong.

    There also seemed to be some difficulty in understanding the detailed specification we provided. API functions were often coded with additional or missing parameters, and concepts such as thread safe and memory leakage were clearly a mystery to them.

    Goodness knows how they would cope with a typical government "dynamic spec".

    Most of the code was ultimately re-written in-house after the sub-contractor was quietly paid off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So...

      What we saw when our mothership decided to add resources from India, is that the staff seemed to be rotated through companies, a constant state of flux with regards to which individuals were actually allocated to our company. As such there was a constant grind of knowledge transfer and half finished projects.

      1. Ken 16 Silver badge

        Re: So...

        Yes, the offshore resources are used because they're cheap, they're cheap because their pay is low. When they get some experience, like any other IT professional, they will look for a better paid job. They'll get one to supervise the newly hired staff with no experience. In a booming IT economy like India's that's a never ending spiral.

    2. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      Re: So...

      A politician lied, who would have thought it?

      No No No No, politicians NEVER ever tell lies (unless you're Jeffrey Archer), but that's not the same as telling the truth.

      Grayling told parliament that he would not allow his department's major IT projects to go abroad.

      Quite clearly, 1) this is not a major project and 2) grayling's department did not send the work abroad, the project was given to Ãĉĉěńţūřė/IBM in the UK and Ãĉĉěńţūřė/IBM sent the work abroad.

      This has several advantages for the lying self-serving kunts politicians, 1) they can claim they tendered out the work to the most 'completive' bid, and 2) when the project is totally FUBAR, it will be the consultants fault and 3) when they retire on their inflation proof non-contributory pensions they can become non-executive directors of [insert name of consultancy firm],.

      See, it’s easy to lie speak like a politician.

  8. Drummer Boy

    I thought everyone knew

    That outsourcing to India, does not cost less anymore. Yes the day rate you pay a developer is lower, but the management overheads of running offshore, and the sheer depth of detail design specs need to be written to quickly negates any saving in day rate.

    Having been through this with a company I know first hand.

    As for 24hr working, put a night shift on on the UK!! Or are they referring to taking advantage of poor worker treatment in the sub continent?

  9. Chuckl

    Computer Technicians???? who wrote this rubbish?

  10. auburnman

    I think we could borrow a favourite from the government playbook and play the terrist card to get this shut down.

    Shouldn't be difficult to lather the redtop rags into an uproar about how "outsourcing our identity data endangers our borders by making it easier for TERRORISTS to forge UK ID's" or some equivalent bollocks. Then just stir until you hear backpedalling.

  11. Simon Watson

    Offshoring and Govt IT

    My experience of working with off shoring software development is that unless the specification is done in excruciating detail is just doesn't work. Indian software development outfits also suffer from massive employee turnover and it's unusual for them to be able to develop significant project experience and expertise.

    Govt projects are notorious for changing the spec again and again and again, which is why they often fail or only deliver with massively over budget.

    24hour development is a myth in general as it's very hard to get different people/groups to work on the same functionality in an efficient manner. You might deliver quicker overall, put productivity is lower and costs are higher than developing at a single site.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Offshoring and Govt IT

      The turnover is a cultural thing, there's an Indian guy (resident in the UK) working here, we were having a conversation about offshored resource, and he said that in India, unless you're seen to be moving your career around frequently, people assume there's something wrong with you or your work. The perception is that anyone good hops between jobs all the time.

      1. Simon Watson

        Re: Offshoring and Govt IT

        I know that and understand why they do it, but it still creates expertise and experience problems which is frustrating.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a surprise - NOT

    Our political morons at it again.

  13. JaitcH

    The Americans Know how to Do IT.

    The US Government simply stipulates that certain work will be done within the USA by US citizens, not Wanabe's or Aliens but real citizens. And it works, only Canada has waivers and then only for certain classes of security items.

    It;s a pity Cameron doesn't consider his fellow citizens first. Besides, he is also missing out on all that income tax whereas the money paid to Indians is gone forever.

    As for private data going abroad, does the government even consider the increased risks incurred by using foreign nationals to process data? Does it comply with EU law?

    The banks are no better, many fob you off to someone working in a Mumbai sweatshop for handful of Rupees per hour to save money but for customers they are near useless. I spent GBP40 trying to get hold of a British person located in Britain who would actually understand that SaiGon is not an English city when the World's Most Incompetent Bank - HSBC - failed to deliver a card.

    Now they have sent me an electronic PIN device that doesn't work - it produces strange hieroglyphs that suggests it's malfunctioning. Wonderful stuff, High Tech. Another opportunity to speak to the Mumbai cretins.

    1. I'm Brian and so's my wife
      Thumb Up

      Re: The Americans Know how to Do IT.

      On the subject of your bank, have a look at

      Competent, UK-based staff and their Northern accents (based in and near Manchester) are perfectly intelligible.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: The Americans Know how to Do IT.

        Careful about smile.

        They have started using shared called centers with the Co-Op and the training is sadly lacking and the famous smile customer service is descending downwards fast.

        Still UK based but not as good as they used to be.

        Based on person experience me & the wifey YMMV.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Americans Know how to Do IT.

          @Gordon 10 - Smile IS the Co-Op.

          I've been with Co-Op bank for 15 years and have no complaint at all.

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: The Americans Know how to Do IT.

      They probably didn't know about "Saigon" because it hasn't officially been called that for nearly 40 years - it's "Ho Chi Minh City", and would be listed in the atlas/phone book/encyclopedia as such.

  14. Crisp Silver badge

    What's that Chris Grayling?

    Do as I say, not as I do? Ok, carry on.

  15. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Quite negative postings on here. Who says IT workers in India are less proficient? my experience is quite the opposite. Microsoft has lots of developers from India.

    Also, bear in mind the time zone differences in having outsourcing which can be advantageous for testing. When the working day in the UK is ending people based in another country can still be working for a few hours. So the next day developers can come in and have test results.

    It is surely advantageous to make use of the whole 24 hours in a day?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Quality trumps quantity every single time

      "Who says IT workers in India are less proficient". I do. I base this not only on personal experience with different indian vendors in a variety of roles but also the experiences recounted by colleages, many of whom are of Indian descent and concur with the sentiment. IT schools in India are degree factories that produce graduates who're acceptable programmers provided, as others have pointed out, the specifications are excruciatingly exact. They are simply incapable, on average, of dealing with ambiguity or extrapolating detail from a broad brush. In fact the level of detail required in order to manage the risk of an Indian offshore development is such that you are generally better off putting that effort into an MDM approach and generating the code.

    2. Why Not?

      Why do we doubt this will work?

      Bitter experience Giles.

      Some are great, out of a Billion candidates some Indians are genius.Most of those are either in the US or UK on Visa's working for companies like Microsoft.

      However we are talking about outsourcing here, they will select the best at making them money, that won't mean the best technically or at solving customer problems. They will however be the best at pushing back to the customer and charging for variations.

    3. David Hicks
      Thumb Down

      Anyone that's worked with them

      Not that the individuals are necessarily stupid, or terrible at what they do, but there are systemic problems. I worked with Indian folk in the UK. One of them told me that - "The top flight people, they all go to the US for the money. The rest of the good people come to Europe for a little less money. What's left is, well, what's left."

      So they don't have a good starting point there, they do have a cultural bias to agree with anything you say (do you have the skills for that? do you understand what I'm asking?) even if it's not true, there is a language barrier, there is a massive churn of staff and frankly, when looking at the results, you tend to get either nothing at all or just plain crap.

    4. binky_256

      so you may be trolling here

      Microsoft has development centres in India, in Israel, China (from memory), in Australia (security research), and obviously in Redmond. Some development is also done here in Reading.

      They're not silly enough to place their bets on any one country.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "....Who says IT workers in India are less proficient? ... Microsoft has lots of developers from India..."

      I think you just said it yourself.

  16. The Jase


    Offshored work should be charged an import duty.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I didn't notice the New Lobour ministers complaining when the government appointed new board sent RBS IT jobs offshore, but that board was appointed by them.

  18. JeffUK

    To be fair, british industry has failed to deliver a working government IT system for quite some time, this way it's probably got a chance of working!

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      That's got more to do with the fact that the "spec" will be contradictory, not specify everything and change on a repeated basis. More than likely, the "spec" also doesn't really take everyone into account, so that they will find the system doesn't fit what the users need if it actually gets delivered.

      Who is the supplier tends to make little difference, although those who have experienced this kind of crap in the past tend to manage better with the daily change requests and poorly written specs.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Err.. no...IBM, Accenture, HP et al have failed to produce workling IT systems for the UK Government...usually using off shored resources.

  19. Bluenose

    Not a fan of outsourcing

    but let's be honest outsourcing is al about getting something for less (not necessarily more) and big business still sees India as a large pool of talent there to be exploited and to be sure there are some very bright people working for some of the companies named. The name of the game is profit and while the Govt is foregoing income tax in respect of the work it is gaining, no health insurance costs due to stress of working 9 hours a day up to 6 days a week for 48 weeks a year.

    It will also gain from an increased tax take from the profits of the companies located in the UK who will win from this set up (of course the recent tax cuts in business taxes will probably result in a net zero change to the tax take but think of the bosses bonuses as a result of increased profits).

    You can also think about the increase in the share price that will benefit all those who saw their top rate cut to 45% and who invest in companies who off shore.

    The only loser here is joe public and unemployed British developers but then again they don't necessarily vote Tory and they can alwasy compete for this work by reducing their day rates to the minimum wage and working longer hours. In fact that is probably one element of the Govt's new resgional pay policy. Won't be long before the Welsh and Northern Ireland will be competing with India on price quickly followed by the North East and West. But the dark horse is the Philipines 'cos they are even cheaper than India but less well educated like much of the UK these days.


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