Now who's accountable for the NPfIT?

John Hutton the minister who was one of the pioneers of the National Programme for IT, and who defended it regularly on the BBC Today programme, has gone, as has former NPfIT minister Caroline Flint who was aggressive and personal in her attacks on even mild critics of the NPfIT.

Ben Bradshaw who has been the government’s chief defender of the NPfIT since 2007, has been promoted to culture where, doubtless, he will continue to defend whatever government whips want him to defend.  

His boss Alan Johnson, who could never understand why anyone said anything negative about the NPfIT, has been moved to Home Secretary.

It’s odd that the minister in charge of the NPfIT gives Parliamentary assurances about the programme’s long-term future, answers MPs’ questions on the scheme, replies to letters from the BMA and others, and gives speeches on the programme as if there were such a thing as ministerial accountability. 

Then they’re gone and someone else arrives, like the protagonist in a TV series who is suddenly replaced in the middle of filming, and without explanation.

All this jumping on and off the NPfIT roundabout-of-temporary-accountability leaves Sir-to-be David Nicholson as the only man who has been around for a while as the programme’s senior responsible owner.

But he’s a civil servant, and so is in charge of the management of the programme, not the policy. It’s odd, therefore, that the UK’s largest civil IT programme has a part-time senior responsible owner.

But then there’s so much that’s odd about the NPfIT. And the less you understand it the less you can measure it.

If in the private sector the chief executive kept replacing the board director responsible for a £bn IT-based programme every time the individual had been in the job long enough to understand it, shareholders would want the head of the CEO.

Mike O’Brien takes over from Bradshaw as the NPfIT minister.  I hope there’s time to post this entry before he goes. 

PS other ministers who were in charge of NPfIT and who gave long-term commitments when asked questions about the programme include John Reid, Lord Hunt and Lord Warner. They  left the NPfIT roundabout years ago.

 Links:

IT glitch for [new] IT minister – Fuselearning

Hard times at BT – Adam Smith Institute blog

NHS trust leads the way with e-records project – eweek Europe

Tories promise transparent procurement – E-Health Insider  

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Definite badge of honour to be criticised by name in Parliament Tony, even if only by someone who thinks of herself in terms of female window dressing.

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Do you not think that's why Mr Nicholson has brought in Ms Edwards, heading up the Productivity & Efficiency Unit? She is one on the few people at a senior level left from the original Granger set up. She also tells ministers what they want to hear. When will ministers wake up to the real situation? [edited].

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