GDS boss looks to work closer with Treasury on project planning

Written by Sam Trendall on 20 September 2019 in News

Alison Pritchard says organisation would like to be involved at an earlier stage of projects

 Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

The Government Digital Service will look to establish a closer relationship with HM Treasury, enabling it to contribute at an earlier stage of discussions about plans for major government projects.

Alison Pritchard, who was appointed as interim director general of GDS last month, hosted the organisation’s annual Sprint conference this week in central London. At the event, PublicTechnology asked her if the demands of Brexit had resulted in some compromises being made to the digital and technology spending controls overseen by GDS.

“No – there has been no loosening of spending controls in terms of the major programmes going through,” she said. “We have worked hard around our service design guidance, to make sure, where services are ready to go live, that if there is some further tweaking that might need to be done, we can work creatively with the department to make sure that the those fixes might be addressed in time.”

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In the future, Pritchard said, the controls will remain an important part of GDS's work. Indeed, the digital agency would like its role in assessing planned projects to be more deeply embedded.

“In terms of controls, and particularly on funding and expenditure, what I want to see more of is a partnership with HM Treasury, so that we are able to address overall deliverability for programmes at a very early stage,” she said.

GDS already has “both informal and formal links with the Treasury”, according to Pritchard.

“They are always looking for help in terms of how we can make sure that bids are right and proper and effective and deliverable,” she said. “And, I think, the area where we can strengthen our pitch with the Treasury is around transformation opportunities, where there are complexities in the way that spending reviews are done on a very bilateral basis – we are looking forward to be able to do something a bit more agile with business cases, to make sure that risk is shared in the right way, and making sure we encourage innovation.”

The government chief digital and information officer – a permanent secretary-level post at the head of government’s DDaT function that is currently being recruited for – could have an important part to play, believes the GDS head.

“We expect the GCDIO to have a significant role in the early phases of the development of potential programmes, allowing us to comment on deliverability in the pipeline route – rather than at the last moment, with spending controls," Pritchard said. "Adherence to controls remains a critical part – an essential part – of our role.”


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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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