Former Newham Council CIO comes out of retirement

Former Newham council CIO and Socitm president Richard Steel has returned from retirement to take over from Intellect president Julian David as general manager at the UK arm of a Hong Kong systems supplier.

Former Newham council CIO and Socitm president Richard Steel has returned from retirement to take over from Intellect president Julian David as general manager at the UK arm of a Hong Kong systems supplier.

David resigned from Azeus UK on Wednesday, only two months after he was appointed director. It is one month since he was appointed director general of Intellect, the UK IT trade association, a post he starts officially on 19 March.

Steel (pictured) told Computer Weekly he had been tempted out of retirement by the opportunity to run a business and promote Azeus's social security case management system, a product he said he had found exciting.

Steel was formerly chief information officer of Newham Borough Council when he completed his tenure as Socitm president in July 2009. He retired after setting a precedent for large public sector software deals. A 10-year licensing contract he signed with Microsoft in 2004 was used as a blueprint for similar arrangements by the Office of Government Commerce (now Government Procurement Service), but had also been controversial for its rejection of open source alternatives.

"I'm taking over as general manager of Azeus UK, which was set up last year," said Steel. "Julian David had been running the operation. We are also appointing a managing director of social security at the beginning of May.

Azeus UK Limited has been dormant since it was incorporated on 25 May 2010 by Wan Lik Lee, a Malaysian resident of Hong Kong. Steel said the Hong Kong parent company had direct relationships with UK customers who he refused to name. He would however be writing to customers on Monday to tell them about expansion plans now being led from the newly revived UK entity.

"Since I packed up I made a decision not to go into consulting because I felt I've been there and got the t-shirt. I felt I've done IT. But I've always wanted to have a part in running a business. I also know the founder of Azeus. I met him when I was at Socitm. I've been watching what he was doing," he said.

"He got me to have a look at the product. I was excited when I looked at it. I thought it was extremely up to date. Some of the existing offerings are maybe getting a bit tired," said Steel, who counted Lik Lee as a friend. The subject of the appointment came up over lunch.

Azeus' system is produced by a team of 300 developers in the Philippines, said Steel. It would be competing with suppliers including CoreLogic, Liquid Logic, OLM and Northgate.

Steel said he had known of Julian David when the latter was vice president of IBM UK's public sector business. "Any relationship we have got has been developed in the last few weeks," said Steel. David declined to comment.

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There's al potential scandal brewing here. Azeus Systems Ltd were recently awarded an OGC Framework contract for providing social care systems in the UK.
How can a dormant company that is actually very small even in its home country, (<£7m t/o and barely profitable) with no UK staff other than a sales rep and where social care systems are not its main business be awarded a framework contract when it is an extremely high risk option?
The OGC is supposed to do the due diligence on suppliers to minimise this risk, how have they managed to get through?


I agree about the potential scandal, though it's the GPS (Government Procurement Service) which has boobed, not the OGC which disappeared last year.

It's completely beyond me how a company with no UK staff can be awarded a huge framework contract.

Azeus have nothing more than a website. The UK arm is described as a 'shell company'. I'm not suggesting that backhanders were involved, but maybe some good relationships were exploited.

If I worked for the GPS right now I'd be a tad concerned, particularly as China isn't one of the ICO's approved countries for handling sensitive data.