NAO tells HMRC to hold its nerve over digital transformation

Written by Rebecca Hill on 15 July 2016 in News

HMRC needs to stay committed to meeting its goals as it faces one of its most challenging years yet in its efforts to become one of the world’s most digitally-advanced tax administrations, the National Audit Office has said.

HMRC is in the process of exiting the biggest single government IT contract - Photo credit: HMRC

In response to HMRC’s annual report and accounts, which were published yesterday, the comptroller general Amyas Morse said that the body needed to “keep its nerve” even in the face of setbacks.

The NAO’s report on the HMRC accounts noted that the tax authority was managing one of the most complex transformations seen in government as it transfers from its legacy IT contract, known as Aspire, with Capgemini.

Following criticisms that it had tried to change too much, too quickly, HMRC revised its approach to exiting the contract and chose to take a phased approach, at the same time creating a new company, Revenue & Customs Digital Technology Service, to manage its digital and technology services.

The NAO said that it was too early to evaluate the programme, given that some of the changes in approach have been active for just a few months, but it noted that RCDTS is due to publish its accounts in autumn.

However, the NAO also said that 2016-17 would be the year of greatest activity for the HMRC, in terms of both spending and the outcomes it hopes to achieve, and as such should focus on making a proper assessment as soon as possible to implement necessary changes ahead of 2017-18.

Related content

Aspiring to change
IT staff moving to HMRC from private contractor will still be bound by 1% pay cap

Setting out the challenge in a statement published alongside the report, Morse said: “On the one hand, it needs to keep its nerve and commitment to its goals even if there are occasional setbacks along the way; on the other, it needs to ensure that it does not make the taxpayer underwrite the risk of failure through service breakdowns.”

The NAO report, which is appended to HMRC’s annual report, said that managing the high levels of complexity and ambition in HMRC’s plan would be a major challenge.

Although it said the tax authority had recognised that this meant the plans were more uncertain than a conventional change programme, it noted that there could be “serious risks if major assumptions underpinning its strategy do not prove realistic”.

It cited as an example HMRC’s recent assumption that taxpayers would move over to online services more quickly than they did, and so its decision to cut call centre staff when there was still high demand led to impaired quality of service for 18 months.

HMRC is now more closely monitoring how taxpayers respond to changes in services, and the NAO said that HMRC needed to model the impact of different scenarios in future in order to intervene earlier.

HMRC’s annual report and accounts also set out a number of risks it had identified in the previous year, which included customer service.

It said that it had developed a number of ways to ensure sustainable improvements, which included better monitoring systems, ensuring flexible staff working and working to digitise forms so they can be submitted online.

Other identified risks were to ensure the delivery of robust IT infrastructure, providing better IT services and to improve cyber security measures.


Share this page




Please login to post a comment or register for a free account.

Related Articles

Test and Trace signs £9m one-year AWS deal
26 May 2021

Contract – which is not signed under the terms of the public sector-wide OGVA – covers provision of cloud services

Unwrapping government’s £300m Amazon package
7 May 2021

Since a public sector-wide agreement with AWS was introduced six months ago, departments have signed contracts worth hundreds of millions with the cloud firm. PublicTechnology takes...

Related Sponsored Articles

Social justice: how the police can embrace online channels of citizen communication
17 June 2021

PublicTechnology talks to Salesforce about why police forces need to adopt new omnichannel capabilities, offer the public channel choice and the benefits of doing so

"The inflection point is here": how Covid is driving digital transformation in health
9 June 2021

It’s been one of the most challenging years for healthcare providers, but Salesforce sees lasting change from accelerated digital transformation

The largest ever UK public sector cloud transformation unlocks cost savings and innovation
17 May 2021

Cloud-based applications can provide ways for agencies and departments to innovate and operate in new ways, as the past year has highlighted they must, writes Oracle