PASC 12: Look at corruption

Filed under: Governance,People,Policy,Politics,Process,Risk — lenand @ 11:07 am
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12 questions have been posed by the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC).  Here is the first, which shall be the last:

No 12.  How well does the UK compare to other countries with regard to government procurement and application of IT systems?

Quarkside believes that the relative performance of government procurement is closely linked to Transparency International’s corruption league table. In 2010 the UK was in 20th position. It would be interesting to compare procurement performance with competitor countries that rank higher, such as Japan, Germany, Scandinavia. The USA is ranked 22nd, but the sampling errors probably make them equivalent.

The UK has a history of failed IT procurements. Most have not exposed their risk registers and provided the transparency that could have prevented the wastage of public resources. For more background see Quarkside’s blog on the “Risk Revolution. Catastrophe Killer.” Questioning people at every level in an organsation about perceived levels of corruption might produce some interesting results.

Countries lower down the corruption table frequently have a cosy relationship between suppliers and politicians. Selection procedures favour the big suppliers, who have to increase costs to pay for lavish levels of hospitality and inflated ‘consideration’ payments. There’s a message about avoiding such behaviour in the UK. It may mean employing people with the appropriate skills directly and not relying entirely on external consultants. Whilst working abroad, I heard a supplier say that he proposed an expensive database management system above a free one “because they can’t mark up free software”. He implied that there is more benefit to public ‘servants’ if contract costs are higher.

Corruption lies in the cultural sub-dimension of ‘People’ in the Quarkside seven dimension information governance model (7DIG).  The acceptance of favours is only part of the problem; it is also the treatment of those who expose potentially corrupt behaviour. Whistleblowers invariably lose out from any attempt to expose questionable practice.

Application of IT systems is the third thing to consider, AFTER confirming the service requirements and establishing the governance. Initial adoption of packages based on other countries systems, laws and culture is doomed to repeat the mistakes of recent procurements. To repeat Quarkside philosophy:

  1. Process: What is needed?
  2. Governance: How is it controlled?
  3. Technology: How is it to be done?


  1. Corruption is an emotive word and, as you rightly infer, is not limited to greed but also includes ignorance, laziness and ego. Human attributes which block innovation and progress.
    Organisations, public and private, enter into contracts with ill-defined specifications in which the supplier quotes low and is relying on the off-contract ‘extras’ to make their profit regardless of budgets and deadlines.
    There is the ‘named brand’ laziness, AKA ‘Cover your arse’, exemplified by the 80’s ad campaign “No-one ever got fired for buying IBM”.
    With technology developing so fast, there is concern at the top that ‘they don’t understand it’, so it will undermine their perceived expertise, or that they are defending some enormous budget they fought for back in the 90’s and fear they will look stupid. Cloud Computing is being resisted by some for these reasons. I remind them that, back in the 70’s, it was called Time Sharing. It is not new – it is just much easier, faster and substantially cheaper today.
    It doesn’t help that the importance of departments and department heads is measured by their size/budget – where is the incentive for efficiency, transparency and cost cutting when an individuals’ importance is diminished? Inefficiency is big business and they will defend their bailiwick from such new-fangled innovations to the bitter end.
    And that is why I am excited by the tough year ahead – it is ripe for innovation and change!

    Comment by grahamsadd — 05/01/2011 @ 1:40 pm | Reply

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by lance piper. lance piper said: RT @pferdy: Public Administration Select Committee (PASC): Look at corruption, please. http://wp.me/p14MGf-dP […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention PASC: Look at corruption « Quarkside -- Topsy.com — 08/01/2011 @ 9:16 am | Reply

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