Three chief information officers are among the highest paid civil servants in Whitehall, with salaries that outstrip the salaries of the prime minister and the most senior leaders in government.
The salaries reflect the importance placed by the government and the civil service on the IT-based modernisation of some large central departments. The three top-paid CIOs are running IT-based change programmes that together are worth at least £16bn.
Research by Computer Weekly has established that the three - Steve Lamey of HM Revenue and Customs, Joe Harley of the Department for Work and Pensions, and Richard Granger, director general of NHS IT - received salaries which were more than that of the highest ranking civil servant, Cabinet secretary Gus O'Donnell.
They also earn more than their bosses and permanent secretaries who run other departments, such as the Treasury and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Their salaries are between £240,000 and £285,000 - at least 25% more than the salary of Gordon Brown.
The pay is more than twice the average for CIOs in the private and public sectors. A CIO survey conducted by recruitment consultancy Harvey Nash last year put the average salary at £104,000, compared with £84,800 the previous year.
And beyond Whitehall, non-civil servants who work for the wider public sector can earn even larger sums than Lamey, Granger or Harley. David Burden, group CIO at Royal Mail, earned £359,000 in 2006.
Cathy Holley, a partner at executive search specialist Boyden, said that the government must offer good salaries to attract people who have a track record of successfully transforming organisations of enormous size and complexity.
But it is more than the salary that coaxes top IT directors to the public sector - in the private sector, CIOs can earn more than £1m. Richard Granger has said that the public sector "attracts people not primarily motivated by money, but dedicated to delivering a public service".
However, not all government CIOs earn salaries of more than £200,000. The Ministry of Justice is recruiting an IT director at a salary of up to £110,000. And Ian Watmore, the former government CIO and now head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit, earned about £195,000.
Title: Chief information officer and director general, HM Revenue and Customs.
Salary: £240,000 to £245,000 in the year 2006-07, according to the department's annual report.
How does this compare with his boss's salary? The permanent head of HM Revenue and Customs earned between £170,000 and £180,000. The other board directors earned less than £200,000.
Annual IT-related spend (latest figure available): £989m
Some key tasks: Modernise an IT estate that is heavily dependent on Fujitsu "VME" mainframes dating back decades; gaining an overview of the tax affairs of 30 million Pay As You Earn taxpayers; clearing discrepancies in millions of tax records; ironing out inconsistent working practices among 100,000 staff; reducing billions of pounds of tax credit overpayments; tackle fraud and error which auditors say is "unacceptably high". His work so far is praised even by critics of the Revenue's cost-cutting policies.
When joined: October 2004 on a four-year contract
CV highlights: Graduated in mining engineering at University College Cardiff in 1978. He became BOC's director of global information and management user services and later became CIO at British Gas.
Title: IT director general and chief information officer, Department for Work and Pensions
Salary: £249,000 according to the latest figures available.
How does this compare with his boss's salary? The permanent head of the department earned the equivalent of £208,000.
Annual IT-related spend (latest figure available): £1.14bn
Some key tasks: Modernise Whitehall's biggest department in a £3bn programme that includes more than 90 IT-based projects; manage the Customer Information System that is to become the ID cards National Identity Register database; tackle an estimated £2.5bn that has been lost to fraud and error, according to John Bourn, the Comptroller and Auditor General, who has qualified the department's accounts 18 years running. Estimated losses have, however, been cut by £2.7bn in the past year. Bourn said in a report published on 25 July 2007, "The department has made real progress in introducing new systems and procedures that both reduce fraud and error and properly value and record identified debts." He paid tribute to the "leadership evident within the department in tackling these issues".
When joined: July 2004 on a five-year contract
CV highlights: Educated at the University of Paisley. Global IT vice-president at BP, and later CIO at ICI Paints, where he was responsible for all aspects of the global IT function across some 50 countries.
Title: Director general of NHS IT, chief executive of NHS Connecting for Health
Salary: £270,000 to 275,000, according to the latest figure available
How does this compare with his boss's salary? The chief executive of the NHS earned £225,000 to £230,000.
Annual IT-related spend (latest figure available for NHS): £1.4bn
Some key tasks: Lead the National Programme for IT, a £12.4bn modernisation scheme for the NHS; manage contracts with outsourcing suppliers worth £6.2bn; oversee the introduction of systems that make it easier for hundreds of thousands of NHS staff to improve the care and treatment of patients. Last year the National Audit Office found that "substantial progress" had been made on the scheme. The report commended NHS Connecting for Health for its "tight control of the central aspects of the programme".
When joined: 7 October 2002 (has resigned and is due to leave by end of 2007)
CV highlights: Partner at Deloitte Consulting. Worked on the successful procurement and delivery of a number of large scale IT programmes including the Congestion Charging Scheme for London.
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