CSSA joins the fray over government IT



Mike Simons

The Government has the lifetime of this parliament to get its IT strategy right or it could find major suppliers refusing to bid...



Mike Simons

The Government has the lifetime of this parliament to get its IT strategy right or it could find major suppliers refusing to bid for key projects, according to John Higgins, director general of the Computing Services & Software Association (CSSA).

Higgins told Computer Weekly, "There are large members of the CSSA who are telling me they are reluctant to bid for central government IT contracts: much more than two or three years ago.

"We need a better climate within the lifetime of this Government, otherwise there will be a decreasing number of bidders, with all the problems that entails," he added.

The CSSA has launched a Project Review Board, chaired by former ICL director Charles Hughes, to offer its own input into the Cabinet Office's review of government IT, due to report in May.

Higgins is anxious not to be seen to be excusing suppliers' failings, or to be in confrontation with the Government. However, he said CSSA members feel inhibited from answering criticism surrounding government IT because they are trying to develop and sustain commercial relationships with departments.

"Our members have got a lot of experience and knowledge," said Higgins. "We can make private sector projects work, so why is it so hard to do the same in the public sector?"

Hughes said, "The key objective is to produce a series of pragmatic, sensible suggestions acceptable to both government and the IT industry."

Cabinet Office minister Ian McCartney said the CSSA move was "a significant step, with government and industry working together". He added, "Suppliers share responsibility for ensuring that projects are delivered on time, on budget and provide promised improvements."

Higgins and Hughes will be joined on the CSSA review board by Jim Naughton, director of e-commerce at the Institute of Directors, Bill Roberts of Marconi and Brian Collins, head of IT practice at law firm Clifford Chance.

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