back to article MPs slam gov heads over 'childishness' on failed farmer IT project

Senior UK government officials were hauled in front of MPs yesterday to defend their deeply "dysfunctional" and "childish" behaviour, which contributed to the botched £215m Common Agricultural Policy IT system, and up to £180m in EU fines. Government Chief Technology Officer Liam Maxwell from the Government Digital Service, …

  1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    What was the "dysfunctional and childish behaviour"

    I can't find it described in the article. Throwing toys out of prams? Posting nasty things about one another on Twitter? Making snide comments and sniggering as they passed one another in corridors? Undermining people by dragging up has-beens to lambast them in the Spectator?

    ...oh sorry, this is about the GDS. I thought for a moment it was about the Blairites in the Labour Party. Or is it just that this kind of behaviour is now the norm in everything politics-related, and the country is being run by Nigel Molesworths (3b)?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: What was the "dysfunctional and childish behaviour"

      It would have helped if the article had a link to the report - https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Early-review-of-the-Common-Agricultural-Policy-Delivery-Programme.pdf

      The relevant paras are at pp 28 - 29. Of course "childish" isn't actually mentioned in the report. I suspect the members of the committee have access to a good deal more information than is in the report itself.

      I like the raising of the question as to why people are still in post. It's time to end the culture of people remaining in positions of responsibility for such failures.

      1. JimC Silver badge

        Re: Still in post

        Well, if you get rid of everyone who knows how it went pear shaped last time, then does that decrease or increase the risk of the same thing happening again?

        A balance needs to be struck. The trouble is I'm never sure how well these exercises really identify what went wrong in the decision making process and how to rectify it. However the crack about power but not responsibility seems all to feasible to this commentard, who spent too many years in government IT.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Still in post

          > Well, if you get rid of everyone who knows how it went pear shaped last time

          If nobody else trusts them, their advice will be of no value.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Still in post

          You get rid of the ones who facilitated it going pear-shaped, not the ones at the coal face who were trying to make it work.

  2. TitterYeNot

    That'll learn 'em...

    "Former permanent secretary of Defra Bronwyn Hill assured the committee that nobody had received a bonus over the programme, and that their behaviours had been noted in the department's annual review"

    Well that's telling them! And if they piss another £215 million up the wall they'll have their subsidised green fees suspended for at least a month and no free tickets to the opera next Christmas...

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Meh

    Sorry

    Won't do it again.

    ... but HE pushed first.

  4. vmistery

    Of course the politicians themselves have absolutely nothing to be blamed for and are never childish. Seriously, if they want quality people in these jobs then you have to create an atmosphere that quality people want to work in.

    1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

      Of course the politicians themselves have absolutely nothing to be blamed for and are never childish.

      I agree. I mean, when we watch PMQs or Parliamentary debates, we never hear the sort of jeering and booing that a primary school class would be severely chastised for, do we? Oh, wait...

      It's one of the main things which turns me off politics. It's the one profession I know of where you get rewarded for acting like a spoiled 5-year-old, and encouraged to behave as such.

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Question Time

        " It's the one profession I know of where you get rewarded for acting like a spoiled 5-year-old, and encouraged to behave as such."

        And when Corbyn looks down his nose at them like a Latin teacher faced with an unruly class that can't even decline amare, they get their equally childish and dysfunctional mates in the Press to rubbish him.

        So that's two professions...

        And then there's football managers....

        It's the one among the professions I know of where you get rewarded for acting like a spoiled 5-year-old, and encouraged to behave as such...

        Nobody expects the PAC Inquisition!

    2. Hollerith 1

      And not have to face scope drift

      I loved the fact that they had to deal with changes to align to a new digital strategy. "We've had some new thoughts, chaps, and now everything you are doing has to meet these while still delivering to spec on time. Cheerio!"

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Of course the politicians themselves have absolutely nothing to be blamed for and are never childish. Seriously, if they want quality people in these jobs

      Liam Maxwell *is* a politician. (Well a failed one, perhaps, but certainly did not come up through the Civil Service or IT ranks).

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "their behaviours had been noted in the department's annual review"

    Well thats all right then I'm sure there should be a "lessons will be learned" in there somewhere.

    What a cunch of bunts!

  6. James 51 Silver badge

    The whole point of the civil service is to get between politicians and responsibility, not to actually do stuff. I’d love to think things are going to improve off the back of this but as long as it’s fulfilling its primary function that is unlikely.

  7. Fraggle850

    Still, nice to see that...

    Mike Bracken got out before this shitstorm landed. Would it be disingenuous to suggest that he jumped before he was pushed?

  8. StaudN
    FAIL

    Bloody Politicians

    Sounds like the start of a bad joke: A politician, a farmer and a computer programmer walk into a bar....

  9. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    All departments at risk

    As readers here know, every government department makes a hash of computer projects. Even the more technical departments do, once the Treasury has put its spoke in.

    I remember a technical procurement (ca 30 years ago) where the techies wanted to buy a VAX, but the Treasury insisted on something else that was cheaper. A few months after it was installed, I heard that it had failed to meet the real, secret, requirements on day one, even though it had scraped through an evaluation on 'sanitised' data.

    No doubt they will say that lessons have been learned. But no, no lessons will be learned until the head of the civil service is dismissed without a pension. Nothing less than that will make the civil service realise that it is wrong, wrong, wrong in its attitude to technical management.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: All departments at risk

      "I remember a technical procurement (ca 30 years ago) where the techies wanted to buy a VAX, but the Treasury insisted on something else that was cheaper. "

      In most of the cases I know about, after Treasury put its oar in the result was something more expensive and less capable, "But it's made in Britain!"

      There are good reasons "british made" was treated as a warning label around the world between about 1965 and 1990. Memories are long - to the extent that a GM attempt to revive the Vauxhall brand in one former colony was such a dismal failure the cars had to be recalled from dealers and rebadged as Opels (at which point they sold like hotcakes).

  10. Ian Emery Silver badge

    Guess the followup comments from the civel service/political wonks involved.

    Here are a few to get you going....

    never happen again.

    lessons learned.

    one bad apple

    unforeseen events

    overly ambitious

    underfunded

    1. gerdesj Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Guess the followup comments from the civel service/political wonks involved.

      Bingo!

  11. 2460 Something

    But even if they were no longer in this particular post, they just get put in elsewhere and in a couple years there will be another report .... the cycle continues.

    I dearly wish they would stop hiring numpties again and again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I dearly wish they would stop hiring numpties again and again

      Problem here is that Civil Service is no longer the golden job it once was, the wages are still shite but the benefits of a job for life and golden pension are only still available to the old guard and union buddies. Newcomers get treated like a lower class mongrel and you only get one year contracts.

      Obviously only the old guard want to stay it out to keep their gold plated pension options

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: I dearly wish they would stop hiring numpties again and again

        "Newcomers get treated like a lower class mongrel and you only get one year contracts"

        There are worse things happening. Because the pay structures are so rigid, the money they're offering for the techie jobs to actually do the essential work is so low that competent people simply won't apply for the positions.

  12. ecofeco Silver badge

    I cannot say this often enough

    Governments do NOT "get" IT. They just don't.

    This is why we are going to see some very strange changes this century. They will either master IT or they will be gone and replaced by something else.

    It is already happening.

  13. David Glasgow

    The decision to use gCloud and PaaS?

    ... A bigger boy told me to do it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      Re: The decision to use gCloud and PaaS?

      yes, a minister

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