HMRC chief ‘confident’ team can build on progress of departing CDIO

HMRC has moved to reassure the Public Accounts Committee that the department’s replacement of its Aspire contract would be in safe hands after its department’s chief digital and information officer left.

HMRC plans to run an open competition to replace Dearnley ‘soon’ – Photo credit: HMRC

Mark Dearnley, who had a key role in overseeing the department’s troubled exit from the £10bn Aspire contract, is to step down as CDIO this month when his contract with HMRC ends.

The news of his move, made on 1 August, came just after the PAC published a report that said the work to replace Aspire could falter without consistent leadership.

HMRC has repeatedly come under fire for the way it has handled the replacement of the contract – which was the largest single ICT contract in all of government – but this PAC report said that there had been good progress made recently that needed steady leadership.

At an evidence session for that inquiry, committee members urged HMRC’s permanent secretary Jon Thompson to keep Dearnley in the role. Thompson intimated at the time that he would like to do this. 

However it was later announced that Dearnley wanted to return to the private sector.

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The PAC has now released a letter that indicates Thompson wanted to reiterate that he had taken the committee’s warnings on board and to allay any concerns it might have had about the news of Dearnley’s departure.

The letter, addressed to committee chair Meg Hillier, praised Dearnley’s progress on the work, saying that he had “been impressed with the pace and commitment that Mark has shown during his time with HMRC.

“Mark joined with the remit to transform our internal IT, create new digital services for customers, and oversee the smooth transition from the Aspire IT contract – and he has delivered on all three.”

However, Thompson then went on to say that the department’s plans for the replacement “remained unchanged”.

He said: “I am confident that the strong and stable senior leadership team that Mark built will continue to deliver at pace and complete our digital transformation.”

He added that the interim CDIO Mike Potter, who was previously director of digital transformation, had the “full support” of HMRC’s executive committee and HM Treasury, “and the stability of a robust and comprehensive plan for delivery”.

At the time, Thompson said that a “fair and open” competition to recruit a permanent CDIO would begin “very shortly”.

However a spokesman from HMRC told PublicTechnology he could not offer a more firm timeline, saying just that it would start soon.

Meanwhile, it was announced this week that HMRC would not be renewing its contract with US firm Concentrix after the company was accused of wrongly stopping the tax credits of hundreds of people. It has said that it will have to redeploy 150 staff to ensure customers can resolve any issues with their claims.

Thompson said on Tuesday that the contract, which is worth between £55m and £75m , would not be renewed when it expires in May 2017.

“We want to reassure customers who have had their tax credits stopped that we will prioritise their cases, and make sure that they are processed as quickly as possible,” he said.

“While it’s right that we ensure that tax credits customers only receive the money to which they’re entitled, it is vital that those customers have a high level of service.

“That’s why we have decided not to extend our contract with Concentrix and HMRC is redeploying 150 staff so that customers can get through to advisers and resolve any issues about their claim.”


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