Select Committee on Treasury Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Consignia plc


  Consignia first became involved with the OGC in a meeting on 5 March 2001 between the Chief Executive of Consignia and the Chief Executive of the OGC. At this meeting three key objectives were agreed:

    —  to agree a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which sets out the form of and intent behind a revitalised relationship between OGC on behalf of central Government and Consignia;

    —  to secure a seat at the Consignia Users' Group (a forum of representatives of the major central Government Departments which receive services from Consignia); and

    —  to develop and agree an efficient procurement process for the roll out of the Your Guide (formerly Government General Practitioner) service.


(i)  MoU

  Negotiations on the MoU were led by the Head of Procurement of Inland Revenue on behalf of OGC and the Managing Director of Customer Management for Consignia. The process involved a series of meetings to define and agree the content of the document such that it could be put to the Consignia Users' Group (CUG) for approval, prior to signature by both Chief Executives.

  Discussions on the MoU proceeded well, and there was early consensus on the form and content. After several iterations a draft was put to the CUG for comment. This necessitated a number of additional drafts and a reasonable degree of brokering with Departments. OGC was represented at the meeting which finally approved the MoU and was also instrumental in securing its agreement.

  The MoU was finally signed on 7 September 2001.

  Implementation is well underway, again with Inland Revenue leading for HMG. A number of practical issues are under discussion which should provide improvements to both the relationships between the relevant parties and to the services provided. The MoU is becoming more widely circulated amongst Departments and is already bringing some early benefit.

  Progress on implementation is reviewed regularly, with reports made to the respective CEOs.

(ii)  Consignia Users' Group

  The CUG membership is drawn from a number of major Departments which receive services from Consignia. It is chaired by OGC and has begun to meet regularly since the discussions on the MoU commenced. It is intended that it meets quarterly to consider matters of common interest on Consignia issues. Bilateral meetings with Departments continue as before.

  Consignia now has a regular seat in the Group and initial views of this arrangement are positive as it provides an excellent framework to progress implementation of the MoU and tackle relevant cross Government issues.

(iii)  Your Guide Procurement

  Your Guide is a service designed to exploit the Post Office Branch Network to offer a range of Government related services to citizens. As such it is an ideal example where cross-Government procurement would be beneficial. A number of meetings were held with OGC and DTI (the current programme pilot-sponsors) in an attempt to identify a suitable sponsor for the roll out and the related procurement.

  Whilst the importance of finding relevant long term sponsorship and developing a single procurement point are recognised, there has been much more difficulty in agreeing solutions to these issues and they remain unresolved.

  Concurrent with discussions on procurement, DTI requested that the Your Guide pilot be subjected to a review at Gate 5 (go live). This was the first Gateway Review that Consignia had been involved with and the process was embraced wholeheartedly by the company and noted as such by OGC.

  Although the review process was discussed some months before the pilot date, it took quite some time for arrangements to be made and a review team drawn together. Whilst there is definite benefit in using staff with live operational experience, securing their availability seems to be a difficult issue for OGC to manage and the review was in the end put together very quickly and only just before the pilot was due to start.

  It was fortunate that no major reservations were raised as it would have been very difficult to accommodate the impact of these in the remaining time. There were also issues in obtaining a final copy of the report, again evidence of the pressure of work of the review team. There are clearly some lessons to be learnt from this experience which have been shared with OGC.

  Consignia remains supportive of the Gateway process and welcomes the decision to carry out a review on the programmes to provide automatic cash transfers for Benefit payments and the Universal Bank/Post Office Card Account, covering both Government and Consignia elements.


  OGC makes major use of support from the main Departments, thus effectively creating a cross-Government community of procurement professionals. This has proved very beneficial in dealings to date which have been led by Inland Revenue. Their continued leadership of Consignia's relationship with central Government should provide a strong catalyst for implementation of the MoU and to inject change where prior relationships have not been good. This will benefit all parties.

  There have been frustrations over the procurement process for Your Guide and this remains an urgent open issue. This is one area where a procurement lead from within OGC might be preferable to one from a Department leading on their behalf as this would encourage a more impartial approach. This would be especially beneficial where the involvement of all major Departments helps to make the overall service package more effective, but where the benefits at individual Department level are not as significant. Your Guide is a prime example where the value of such cross-Department working is anticipated.

  The Gateway Review process is supported by Consignia and its further use would be welcomed, especially where complex programmes involving several Departments are involved. There are lessons to be learnt from the experience of the Your Guide review, but these are seen more as administrative than fundamental. The only key concern is OGC's ability to secure continuously the quality of resource it needs from already busy Departments, recognising that the people desired are often the ones most critical to their Department's activities.

  Consignia believes that the long term relationship with OGC will prove beneficial and should create a more open environment, thus encouraging value for money improvements for both parties.

November 2001

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