Mark Hall may quit Whitehall after being snubbed for HMRC CIO role

Mark Hall, the acting CIO at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), has not been given the job full-time and may quit government

Mark Hall, the acting CIO at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), has not been given the job full-time and may leave government altogether after he was snubbed for the post, Computer Weekly has learned.

Mark Hall (pictured) is highly regarded by HMRC’s IT team and was personally recommended for the role by his predecessor, Phil Pavitt, when he left at the start of 2013.

However, Hall learned earlier this week that his application to take on the role permanently was unsuccessful. Sources with knowledge of the process initially suggested Hall had resigned as a result of the snub, but this has been denied by HMRC.

“Although I am disappointed, I understand that a very competitive process was run for what is among the very biggest CIO jobs in the UK,” Hall said in a message to staff yesterday.

“I will consider over the coming months what role I want to do next – whether that is in HMRC, elsewhere in government or outside.”

An external candidate has instead been chosen for the HMRC CIO role. An announcement on the successful applicant is expected before the end of the summer recess.

A source suggested Hall’s application was unsuccessful due to a desire to appoint someone seen more as a “digital leader” than a traditional CIO.

The Cabinet Office has already scrapped the role of government CIO and sees the future of technology in Whitehall as being divided between digital leaders and chief technology officers (CTOs).

Mike Bracken, executive director of the Government Digital Service, has been leading the drive for more digital expertise in Whitehall. Bracken is believed to have had an influence over the choice of HMRC CIO.

Similarly, Bracken’s boss – government chief operating officer Stephen Kelly – is also understood to be no fan of the CIO role.

HMRC would not say why Hall had been denied the promotion to CIO.

“The CIO recruitment process was subject to fair and open competition overseen by a civil service commissioner. Following a rigorous and transparent selection process, an external candidate was chosen. We do not comment on individuals who may have been on the interview panel. Mark’s replacement as CIO will be announced in due course,” said HMRC in a statement.

The apparent downgrading of the CIO role across Whitehall is believed to have caused tensions between the departmental CIOs and the IT reformers based in the Cabinet Office.

In an interview with Computer Weekly earlier this year, Hall highlighted the work he was leading on moving to digital services at HMRC.

“We are making a big transition in terms of how we are thinking about HMRC as a digital business. At the moment we have 250 services online. The next stage is to have an end-to-end digital business,” he said at the time.

When asked about the increasing emphasis being placed on the CTO role across government, compared with CIOs, Hall said in the interview: “I’m very comfortable with the emerging model, I can understand and support the agenda.”

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