Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 99)

MONDAY 31 JANUARY 2000

SIR DAVID OMAND, MR BERNARD HERDAN, MR DAVID GATENBY AND MR GARY PUSEY

Mr Gardiner

  80. I cannot hear what is being said.
  (Mr Pusey) My apologies. Quite clearly at the time the decision appeared to be the sensible one, the technology was there and proven to be working, recognised as working by independent auditors. The real issue was testing it in a live environment.

Mr Campbell

  81. One very last and quick point, if I may. In light of what you have said and the meetings that you had and the discussions that took place, did Siemens at any time ask the Agency for an extension of the timetable? Did you request an extension given the problems that you knew were happening?
  (Mr Pusey) I think the answer to that is as soon as we had gone live at Newport and we had been assessing progress at Liverpool, early progress at Newport, it was very much a joint decision on the part of the Agency and ourselves that we should defer the remainder of the roll-out until we were satisfied that the performance of the two initial sites was up to scratch.

  Mr Campbell: I am not sure if that is yes or no. Thank you, Chairman.

  Chairman: I am sure someone else will raise that, Mr Campbell. Mr Charles Wardle.

Mr Wardle

  82. Thank you, Chairman. Can I just declare a past interest in that I was employed in the Home Office as the Minister with responsibility for this area and in anticipation of the scepticism of some colleagues I refer them to page 12, figure 4 and paragraph 1.8 where they will see the period I was there described in glowing terms, if the NAO use glowing terms. The system was kept simple and it worked. Let us just move to Mr Pusey. Mr Pusey, you worked for Post Office Telecommunications, it became British Telecom, you worked in the public sector, you went on to Milk Marque. I am right, am I not, in my understanding that when the French IT company, GSI, employed you, your specific mission was to look for public sector business?
  (Mr Pusey) My time at GSI—

  83. I am not asking what your time was, what was the mission?
  (Mr Pusey) Specifically to work to grow their UK business operation.

  84. Their UK business.
  (Mr Pusey) No specific focus on public service.

  85. Are you sure about that?
  (Mr Pusey) Yes.

  86. Okay. The work that you bid for, how much of it was public sector? Quick as you can.
  (Mr Pusey) It is very difficult.

  87. Written on your heart from all of that experience.
  (Mr Pusey) The largest contract we bid for successfully was private sector.

  88. That is not what I am asking you. How much did you bid for that was public sector?
  (Mr Pusey) From memory there was one public sector contract about to be—

  89. So you were not as effective as GSI hoped you would be. You moved on to Siemens and at Siemens has your principal task been to find public sector business?
  (Mr Pusey) My principal task at Siemens Business Services has been to help grow the business by winning business—

  90. Tell me what is the aggregate value of the contracts Siemens now have with different Whitehall departments and agencies?
  (Mr Pusey) I guess in terms of total contract value public sector about £1.4 billion.

  91. £1.4 billion. The only ones I am really familiar with are the IND casework, which has resulted in chaos and, of course, the Passport Agency which caused a great deal of upset to an awful lot of people who wanted their passports. Let me just let you rest for a moment and go to Mr Gatenby. Mr Gatenby, I was astounded to hear you say that just 500 people did not get their passports on time. Did it not dawn on you when you were still taking your monthly pay cheque as an active civil servant that there were thousands and thousands of people whose pleasant anticipation of a holiday was marred by anxiety, marred by having to go and queue, often uselessly, outside your offices because they did not get their passports? The fact that they may have got it at the last minute is thanks—I may say—to the hard work of your middle and junior rank staff. That is a compliment I would extend to everybody in the Home Office. I think the management, as I think we will demonstrate before this is over, is worse than useless, it could not manage its way out of a paper bag. I think the loyalty, the commitment, the effort put in by ordinary people working as immigration officers, working at Lunar House as it was, working in the Passport Agency, is to be commended. It is the management that I am worried about. I was astounded to hear you say that no heads rolled. Did your head not roll?
  (Mr Gatenby) No, Mr Wardle. I actually retired. I indicated as early as 1997 that was my intention.

  92. So you retired on the right day. Were you sent on gardening leave prior to retirement?
  (Mr Gatenby) No.

  93. So you are telling me you worked in this muddle retirement happy until the very last moment of your working career.
  (Mr Gatenby) I stayed until 2 September by which time turn around times had come down to within the ten day target, yes.

  94. So you stayed right the way through this. I will turn to Sir David now. Congratulations, Sir David. Did it not dawn on you or any of your senior officials that you needed some new management in as a matter of urgency? Yes or no?
  (Sir David Omand) Mr Wardle—

  95. I just want a yes or no answer, Sir David. It is me taking the evidence.
  (Sir David Omand) Your question is not capable of a yes or no answer because there was more than one question asked at the same time.

  96. Let try to put a simple question to you. Did you consider relieving Mr Gatenby of his duties and putting somebody in place who would manage the thing afresh?
  (Sir David Omand) Of course.

  97. You did. Thank you, that is all I want to know. That is all about management and I have said unkind things about your senior colleagues as well as I have said glowing things about your junior colleagues.
  (Sir David Omand) May I also, please,—

  98. Not at the moment, Sir David. I want you to reflect for a second before I ask you about your management experience, your management training and then we will turn to Mr Gatenby. Let me understand, if I may, whether you agree with these things. Leaping out of the report, if I can give you the paragraphs which you will not need because you know them well, would you agree there are these areas of management failure: failure to test adequately; failure to train properly; failure to forecast future volume; failure to provide contingency planning; failure to provide an adequate public interface in times of crisis; in short, a failure of management? Would you agree with that?
  (Sir David Omand) Yes.

  99. Thank you very much indeed. As you have made that judgment let me ask you, because you have a hugely impressive CV and you are a very important person and a very senior civil servant I know, how much management training have you had during your career? Beyond two week courses at the Civil Service College, have you ever actually been trained in management?
  (Sir David Omand) Yes, I have had a number of training courses.


 
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