Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence



Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280-299)

MR MARTIN SYKES AND MR MIKE ACHESON

WEDNESDAY 23 JANUARY 2002

  280. So is OGC covered by this?
  (Mr Sykes) The Highways Agency are fully part of the OGC community—

  281. So when you answered the Chairman with that figure of 335 million, what is the total spend that is covered? If we are looking for a figure on what you are saving, we have to see how much you are spending. If the Highways Agency alone is 1.5, 335 centrally is just a small part—it is the petty cash at head office, by the sound of it.
  (Mr Sykes) We will have to come back to you with the total figure for the department and its agencies.

  282. Off the top of your head, is it 10 billion?
  (Mr Sykes) No.
  (Mr Acheson) I can give you some figures. Overall we are responsible for 56 billion.

Chairman

  283. Of spending?
  (Mr Sykes) Yes. The department funnels 56 billion of expenditure.
  (Mr Acheson) 37 billion of that is from us to local authorities.

Mr Mudie

  284. That leaves you 19 to account for. Are you then responsible for that 19 billion?
  (Mr Acheson) No.
  (Mr Sykes) It is probably around 3 billion of expenditure through the DTLRC and its agencies.

  285. But the Highways Agency you told us is 1.5 billion alone. Is that the big spender?
  (Mr Sykes) Yes.

  286. But the procurement principles go through them all?
  (Mr Sykes) Yes.

  287. Were you listening when we were speaking to Health?
  (Mr Sykes) We listened to most of it.

  288. I was speaking about the Civil Service language, and you have delivered a beauty as well. You "generally welcome" the creation of OGC. What do you mean by "generally"? That sounds a bit qualified to me. Why the qualification?
  (Mr Sykes) We fully welcome the setting up—

  289. No. If you "fully welcome" me, you fully welcome me with open arms. If you "generally welcome" me, there are times when I am not welcome.
  (Mr Acheson) That is more meant to mean that perhaps, in the way the OGC has been going about its business, from where we sit there could have been some improvements.

  290. Tell us.
  (Mr Acheson) The key thing that we see where OGC could improve is in their own internal communication, because we see some pieces of guidance or whatever coming out from some parts of OGC that are not necessarily consistent with guidance from other bits, and in turn that may not be consistent with the policy and regulatory framework that OGC are also responsible for, so there are some inconsistencies that still have not been ironed out yet and sometimes it is left to departments to spot them and say, "How does this fit?". I think Peter Gershon mentioned this in his evidence—that there was some way to go in fully integrating the various OGC guidances.
  (Mr Sykes) We have seen the bringing together of a number of organisations and we see the different culture in the way that they want to work with us as a department as being very beneficial, but this is a major change and there is still more change and improvement to come, and I think we encourage that. On the point that Mike has mentioned, the inconsistency of guidance, that is historical because it comes from the constituent parts of OGC, but I am very positive about the reaction I get from Peter Gershon when I talk to him about the OGC and his commitment that the branding of the products that come out of the OGC and the consistency will have to be improved, but one could not expect to make that change overnight. I think the progress they have made to date is very creditable.

  291. Are there any times when you found their advice not sensible and you have raised it with them when they have been unresponsive?
  (Mr Sykes) No.

Mr Beard

  292. Turning to Gateway, you have said that the Gateway review process has been a success in your experience. How many reviews have been undertaken under it?
  (Mr Sykes) For the centre of DTLR there are ten Gateway reviews which have been undertaken—one high risk, six medium risk and three low risk.

  293. What are the main lessons that have been learned from these reviews?
  (Mr Sykes) I think making sure that the senior responsible officers are properly engaged: the need to make sure that all of the stakeholders are identified: one of the key learning areas that has come out of a project of which I have been the subject of a review is the need for rigour in defining the success criteria and how you are going to get the benefits capture from the business case which is being set up for a particular project. Those are all very good learning issues. Sometimes, when you are in the middle of a project, you can take your eye off the ball and having somebody independent coming in and saying, "Have you thought about this or that", is a very beneficial process.

  294. Taking those one by one, as the senior responsible officer, I am surprised that you had to have a thing called a Gateway review to import that idea into your project?
  (Mr Sykes) I do not think the Gateway review process imported the SRO concept. I think it has highlighted the need for more effort in ensuring that the SRO is engaged with the project on an on-going basis.

  295. Is it not fairly obvious, if you go and see the responsible officer, that he should know and be participating in what he is responsible for?
  (Mr Sykes) I think the simple answer would be yes, it is fairly obvious, but it does not always happen.

  296. Taking the next point, you mentioned that all the stakeholders should be informed. What typically are the stakeholders in the project you are involved in?
  (Mr Sykes) In my particular project, which is the implementation of electronic procurement within the department, it is about fully understanding the people who are responsible for the controls environment in the department, and also understanding all of the people who are going to have to make the system work.

  297. Typically, if you take a project—any project—that you have got in mind, who are the stakeholders in it? I just want to get an impression. This phrase "stakeholder" means so many things. It is a fairly elastic order.
  (Mr Sykes) It is everything from the receiving customer who is going to get the benefits through to the people providing the finance and the people providing the environment in which the project has to work, including external stakeholders in some projects.

  298. Who would be the people providing the environment in which the project is going to work, typically?
  (Mr Sykes) The finance community within the organisation so, within our organisation, for example, we have a structure of centres of financial excellence where orders and the like are processed and making sure that those people are comfortable with the controls that are being put in place is an essential part of making sure of the success of the project.

  299. What about the people who are going to operate this in the end? Do they get involved?
  (Mr Sykes) Yes. Not necessarily all individually but in some cases we will set up representative groups to make sure the products we are delivering are what the organisation needs.

 


 
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