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Government CIO Harley retires

Mark Ballard

Government CIO Joe Harley will retire at the end of the financial year, leaving a vacancy also in the DWP post he has held since 2004.

Cabinet Office permanent secretary Ian Watmore said Harley's two jobs would be filled separately. Harley became government CIO in February, filling a vacancy left three months previously by John Suffolk at a crucial time for the coalition government.

He vacates job as DWP director general of IT as the department faces its greatest systems challenge, implementing the ambitious £2bn Universal Credit system simultaneously to reforming the department, the welfare system and the department's entire IT estate, while making radical changes also to the way DWP deals with the public.

Watmore said he knew Harley's retirement was imminent when asking him to take the government CIO job last year. "Mrs Harley in particular was getting quite adamant that his 80 hours-a-week on the job at DWP etc wasn't going to continue indefinitely," Watmore told an industry procurement conference held by the Cabinet Office at London's Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster. 

"It's been a great privilege working with him. He is one of the great examples of somebody who has achieved at the highest levels of the private sector and has spent seven years in the public sector and achieved equally at the highest levels here. He has been working flat out on Universal Credit and government programmes.”

Within a month of Harley being appointed CIO he had put his mark but not his name on the government ICT strategy. He established a cross-government CIO Delivery Board that has been commended for bringing major departments into agreement about the current reforms. Known for his no-nonsense style, he also developed the Strategic implementation plan that last month translated the government's bombastic strategy into a more austere reform programme.

Harley, who was revealed last year to be the third-highest paid civil servant in Whitehall, on £250,000-a-year before taking his cross-government job, said in a written statement it had been an honour and a privilege to have served government.

"I am proud to have made some contribution to improving Public Services for the benefit of the citizen and the tax payer," he said.

Before Harley joined DWP in 2004, he was global CIO for ICI Paints, where for four years he ran ICT across the firm's 50 countries. Prior to that he spent 23 years at BP where his jobs included CIO for global exploration and production business and vice president for global IT applications, hosting and consultancy. He also held posts as IT chief in Aberdeen, Alaska and Glasgow, and had worked at IBM, Unisys and in local government.

Harley told Computer Weekly that his proudest achievement as government CIO was creating and planning the implementation of the government ICT strategy.

"On the DWP side I would say my big achievement was the delivery of over £1 billion in IT cost-savings, whilst improving service quality."

He was also proud to have delivered systems in support of the Employment Support Allowance, which on 27 October 2008 replaced incapacity benefit and income support.


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