icm2re logo. icm2:re (I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything) is an 

ongoing web column edited and published by Brunella Longo

This column deals with some aspects of change management processes experienced almost in any industry impacted by the digital revolution: how to select, create, gather, manage, interpret, share data and information either because of internal and usually incremental scope - such learning, educational and re-engineering processes - or because of external forces, like mergers and acquisitions, restructuring goals, new regulations or disruptive technologies.

The title - I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything - is a tribute to authors and scientists from different disciplinary fields that have illuminated my understanding of intentional change and decision making processes during the last thirty years, explaining how we think - or how we think about the way we think. The logo is a bit of a divertissement, from the latin divertere that means turn in separate ways.

Chronological Index | Subject Index

Transparency is the new privacy. Part 2: Accountability

About public procurement, policies and information security

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2015). Transparency is the new privacy. Part 2: Accountability. About public procurement, policies and information security. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Print)], 4.7 (July).

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2015). Transparency is the new privacy. Part 2: Accountability. About public procurement, policies and information security. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Online)], 4.7 (July).
Full-text accessible at http://www.brunellalongo.co.uk/

London - 24th July 2015. Warning notice: whilst in the first part of this article I chose to anonymise names of companies and people because they might have been utterly damaged and disproportionately affected by negative publicity considered the substance of the facts if I had disclosed them, here I believe it is appropriate not to conceal any name of the people, the civil service and the suppliers involved: in fact, I believe that civil servants are (and should be proud of being) responsible of what they do individually and collectively. The same is true for their suppliers: if contractors working for Government departments are unable to take ownership of their conduct, not just in legal terms but under any possible reasonable perspective related to their assignments, they should never engage with the public purse. If anybody disagrees with such a choice, they can let me know their point of view and / or ask the point of view of the Information Commissioner Office. Finally, I would not suggest to reframe facts in order to prevent or mitigate damages to reputation of institutions, businesses and politicians.

Accountability

If trust - as discussed earlier - is the necessary pre-requisite to engage in any type of human interaction and allow new behaviours to take over on habits and inefficiencies, accountability is what makes all sorts of disputes, competitions and conflicts that arise in such processes hopefully absent or at least bearable and manageable. Trust and accountability cannot exist without each other. We trust that in any field everybody is keen on having common rules that we would not sacrifice for the sake of the moment or free riders interests. And yet, the rules can be mangled and accountability denied with all sorts of excuses: this has always been a matter of literature, theology, philosophy, justice and social sciences ruminations more than life, cricket or procurement. Until the digital revolution came in, bringing another possible level of mistiness pertaining language, narratives and how do we communicate about the way we communicate in an open society.

Anyway, I leave to philosophers and fantasists (and to myself as well for other occasions) to comment the wider implications of the digital revolution in terms of cognitive skills, education or politics. What I am talking about here is the level of transparency needed to assure that things in public procurement are carried on, managed, improved or changed in the common interest, in the best possible way, making all things and behaviours that happen through the journey accountable.

The MoJ opportunity

This was an ITT for a study aimed at “Understanding civil court users” through a “Research among civil court claimants and defendants” and it had been issued by the Minister of Justice. The scope of the contract was falling into the consolidated and to me familiar field of outsourced socio-economic, organisational and marketing studies. So, I decided that it would be worthwhile to know more about it and possibly go for it.

The ITT notice was published on the 24th June via the Contracts Finder repository. I decided to see if was not the case to prepare an offer for the smaller part, called the qualitative research, of such required study.

In fact, it seemed to me I could make a very good proposal (as I actually did, and if you are in a hurry here is the submitted document of my proposal) not only because of the confidence I had in my skills and abilities to deal with the technicalities of the commissioned tasks, but also thanks to my personal experience as a litigant in person - I was embroiled in a property lawsuit in 2011-2013 in North London - and my thorough awareness of a number of policies and organisational issues arising from the recent reform of the civil service and the “digital by default” plans.

The buyer organisation was the central procurement office at the Ministry of Justice identified as “HMCTS / Estates / Corporate Services”, an office that might have gone through restructuring and internal reorganisation in recent times. The study had been commissioned by a staff function identified as "Ministry of Justice Analytical Services" (MoJ-AS). I did not think that I should verify the authenticity and reliability of the buyer credentials nor that there was anything particularly suspicious with the fact that a subsidiary (HMCTS) was managing businesses on behalf of a staff function responding to the head office - it is quite common in a project management organisation and / or within the context of so many recently restructured operations that projects are managed through the greatest variety of project teams, resources and organisational alchemies, in the most suitable and efficient ways.

It took me just a couple of hours overall to express interest, register through the procurement platform, familiarise with the ITT specification downloaded the 3rd of July from the Contract Finder database and confirm my decision to bid for just the second part of the contract.

Conversely, reading the whole documentation and preparing my offer was very time consuming and required me not less than ten days to concentrate on the issues and put together all the various bits, give a general reading to at least the MoJ general major terms and conditions for goods and services (over 20 pages), reading the supplier guide presentation (65 slides) and sorting out what to do with some evident gross contradictions and inaccuracies within the same specification (19 pages) the buyer representative explained as inevitable because the documents had been prepared by different people at different stages, whilst I was evidently “new” to these calls. In particular it seemed quite odd that the same specification between the 3rd and the 7th July disappeared from the Contracts Finder database. Since I was concentrating on my own creative process I did not give to such detail too much importance, also because it might have been just a temporary connectivity fault to prevent me from using the correct documents through the Contracts Finder server. In any case, the requirement was available through the buyer procurement portal in a version apparently identical, though it seemed at first the file was either different or had been edited (the file size has changed) compared to the version downloaded the 2nd July, possibly because it had been opened and saved / exchanged by different people through different IT systems.

I spent most of my time in the first two weeks of July 2014 to prepare my proposal (here is in the submitted version), to restructure the problems that I would address managing the second part of the research, so that I could realistically manage it within the given timeframe and budget, to immerse myself into the peculiarities of the data and the workflows and documents that I would analyse and do some preliminary investigations about MoJ statistics, publications and organisational issues.

I sent a detailed email containing appreciative questions about the data I should use within the study asking confirmation about the fact that the only published information about civil cases seemed to be from a publication, "Judicial and Court Statistics", the latest edition of which had been released in 2011 and did not offer great quantitative details about the defendants' profiles and behaviours at all. A certain Tillie Paul, Statistician at the Justice Data Lab, replied the day after just to say that my questions were forwarded to the Civil, Administrative and Family Statistics Team. The last in turn replied only at the beginning of August, well beyond the ITT deadline of 15 July, I will comment the message below.

These considerations about the statistics and the internal data available for the study where among the considerable amount of papers, official documents and datasets I had to research, access and digest in a very short timeframe in order to elaborate and write my proposal on time: the sources included 151 pages of a draft final report of a previous study the Ministry of Justice had commissioned the previous year to TNS BMRB (called “an independent research organisation” but actually part of the WPP group) the final recommendation of which was to undertake a postal survey among civil and private family court users, i.e. adopting methodologies that are quite common for consumer markets but are unlikely to be workable and reliable in order to represent and study the reality of court claimants and defendants.

But nonetheless, apparently, in 2014 a certain Paul Harris, Deputy Director of Civil and Family at HMCTS, had already decided to go ahead with a "postal survey" among civil courts claimants and defendants so that the current ITT could be considered completely unnecessary under his own directions. The authoritative team that had sold the idea of the postal survey – idea that I found in many respects aberrant - included Caroline Bryson and Susan Purdon from Bryson Purdon Social Research, Becky Hamlyn, Emma Coleman and Emily Dryer-Beers from TNS BMRB, Mark Sefton, Independent researcher, Joan Hunt, from Cardiff Law School, Jo Miles from University of Cambridge. I honestly thought at first that I might have misunderstood something, that was not serious, not real that MoJ spend money to investigate how to make a market survey to understand more their own "customers".

On the website of TNS BMRB I found a statement confirming that "in early 2013, BPSR and TNS BMRB were commissioned by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to assess the feasibility of conducting robust and representative surveys of civil and family court users, in order to provide data on users’ pathways, experiences and outcomes. BPSR led on the feasibility stage, assessing options for sampling frames and modes. TNS BMRB has piloted different methodologies for a survey of civil court users in order to assess their viability. The consortium will report their results to the MoJ in Spring 2014".

The acknowledgements of this feasibility study - that was, as said above annex to the specification of the ITT - also mentioned a certain Alison Walker, but I noticed it only the day before the ITT deadline, when I was ready to submit the proposal and I was just reviewing all the instructions and pieces of the puzzle. The name urgently rang a bell. I saw the spectre of an infinite libel I had been targeted by fellows British Library employees and other librarians particularly active through social media that wanted to "help" me following my immigration from Italy in 2008-2009, particularly in two precise circumstances that coincided with two faked job interviews I went through at the British Library in February and August 2009. Was this Alison the same Alison Walker who was pretending to recruit for non existing roles of "e-Learning manager" and "Copyright Assurance Officer"? Did she leave the British Library? Had she been able to access personal information about myself stored within the MoJ system – may be following the publicity I had given to the "7ncc" case of my property lawsuit in North London in 2011-2012, that might have had some connections with the same faked job interviews? And even also with the following dramatic events impacting my stakeholder pension?

In sum, a very complicated and intertwined number of facts and details bombarded my attention and my feelings in the 24 hours before I submitted the proposal. I understood also this procurement opportunity was likely to be an absolutely closed shop or a fake exercise made in order to obtain a service for free, like evidence useful in criminal investigations or other legal processes, publicity or information and advice, without paying for it.

The deadline day I had a terrible headache. Was it because I wanted to avoid what cognitive scientists call "sunk costs" that I did not feel I should change my agenda and abandon the contest? A la guerre comme a la guerre, I followed the instructions and submitted my proposal through the e-sourcing MoJ procurement platform because I felt that it was the right thing to do in any case.

Few day after, an accelerated reality check had already taken place in my mind, putting the interest in winning the ITT in the background - in spite of how proud I was for having written what turned out to be a little masterpiece the consequences of which have shaked the Government interventions and policies in respect of the MoJ Analytics and FOI processes. I understood that for the last almost eight years I had been producing an entire portfolio of innovative ideas that my fellow librarians, geeks and communication experts, particularly active in Government, in libraries and in the media sector, kept on monitoring, spying, copying, gossiping and sharing (without my consent) and above all most of the time misunderstood, simply because they preferred to copy or laugh at me instead of asking me if was not the case to do some work together. And why did they treat me in such disrespectful way? bullying? cruelty? stupidity? protecting me from other major thread? did I enter the Country as a refugee? was I trafficked to investigate and document what might have been a long trail of exchanges of favours between british and italian librarians and civil servants that can be traced back to Panizzi (the italian founder of the British Library) or even earlier to Giuseppe Mazzini? did Italian lawyers mismanaged my identity and personal details putting my name in the wrong lists, shared with the Foreign Office or the UK Trade & Investment Offices, in order to prevent me from being tortured as a witness in any of the Berlusconi processes as a former employee of his early 1990s lobbying and strategic intelligence company (in which I actually play a quite dull role, almost totally disconnected and independent from its political operations?) or for any other reason I am not aware of? Never mind. I decided to put my mind at rest and go ahead as I had planned.

In fact, besides any of my personal ruminations, the ITT was a possibility to get a contract - assuming that there was a real budget to compete for - or to understand more about the MoJ procurement process in any case.

After the deadline had passed, the questions I had asked on the 10th of July were answered the 4th August via email by a certain Alison Colquhoun, Civil and Administrative Justice Statistics Analytical Services, with a substantial confirmation that all the methodological points I had made within my proposal were pertinent, appropriate and possibly very endorsable but showing off an unnecessary self-deprecating attitude that I guess were meant to motivate me to continue a "conversation", in the hope of having my proposal favourably considered? or to demonstrate an expertise? I confess that while the grammar and the style of the interactions showed a clearly dysfunctional approach, the intentions of the whole exercise remain to me, one year later, obscure.

An unnecessary email was sent through the platform on the 7th August: was that the signal to be seen and heard by somebody else who was supposed to be spying my mailbox? The message had in the subject the phrase "Outcome of tender exercise" and just said "Please be aware that this tender is still under evaluation. Notification of the outcome will be issued next week".

The following phone conversations and email messages I exchanged in August 2014 with Belinda Aleagha and then Fiona Burton about the outcome of the ITT showed the extent of the appalling poor attitude on the side of the buyer even further.

On the 15th August, since I had not received any new notification, I wrote to Belinda Aleagha asking if they had reached a decision. I solicited a feedback even in case of negative outcome, because I was considering the possibility to use the proposal for my own publicity (I was really sorry for it not to be heard, because it contained in my opinion very valuable policy advice that should be debated and for which I should be paid and credited). This time I decided to mirror the buyer communication: I put forward a mouse trap to see if I could eventually get the whole picture of what was going on behind doors. The subject of my email was "outcome of Tender Exercise wanted".

No answer arrived this time. They might had got a vibe.

On Monday the 18th August 2014 I phoned Ms Aleagha. A colleague, Fiona Barton, said she was on leave and there was no decision yet about the ITT because many stakeholders were still on holiday - but I could expect the outcome for the week after.

A couple of hours later, the same day, a letter arrived in my mailbox. Sent out through the procurement platform, attached to an empty email message. The file name said it all, as many of the files I myself I had sent to various government departments during the previous year: "MoJ Letter - ODA - outcome - award to TNS BMRB".

As soon as I read it, I wrote back asking to explain the surprising result and letting me know how many offers were received for part 1 and for part 2 of the ITT 4015-2. And how could I access the proposal sent in by the winner? I stated quite clearly that the score I was awarded (zero, on any of the assessment criteria) was quite odd and weird. And it seemed my proposal was the only one they had actually received besides the obvious offer of the former contractor that wanted to carry on the study they themselves had recommended an year earlier. I reinstated the fact that "my proposal contains very relevant methodological, technical and practical ideas that are very well supported by existing legal and social research literature in respect of part 2 of the ITT".

I did not receive any answer at all.

I resent the request forwarding the message on the 26th August 2014. This time Belinda Aleagha replied showing off the complete absence (or pretending to ignore the obligations) of awareness in respects of publication of data related to awarded contracts. She then tried to masquerade such attempt saying that the winner contract would be published and accessible in a redacted form through the Contracts finder database (the conversation is reproduced in this message).

On the 27th August I also sent to the buyer another request to know if they had any complaint procedure in place. The answer arrived in just few hours showing off again the bullying prerogative of the entire exercise:

My question: Do you happen to have a complaints procedure at MoJ Procurement?
Answer from Fiona Barton: Could you please advise the nature of your complaint and I will be able to advise who this is best directed to?

On the 28th I forwarded the same request in a more elaborated version to the office that should have responsibility on compliance and governance according to some guidance I had found on the Gov.uk website. The email address to be used this time was on another domain, "hmps.gsi.gov.uk". The reply came straight away confirming awareness of the problem but no policy at all, and no real intention to take any initiative either. On the contrary, the anonymous officer - writing from the mailbox procurement.compliance@hmps.gsi.gov.uk - seemed colluding or indulging in a passive mood, and he or she was interested in the possibility I myself could escalate the issue making a formal complaint.

On the 23rd September Belinda Aleagha sent a message that showed a climate change had taken place. Writing as "Procurement Group Programme" from another subdomain (PGProgramme.Office@noms.gsi.gov.uk) with subject "Response to your request: ITT4015-2-Professional services-N-RFP" the buyers wanted me to know this time that it was not true that a contract was awarded at all:

Further to your email of 22 September, I apologise for the delay in responding. However, as advised in previous correspondence, the contract award for this project has not yet been finalised. The procurement was undertaken by the Ministry of Justice Commercial and Contracts Management Directorate on behalf of Analytical Services in compliance with the Contract Regulations 2006. I trust this information provides you with the clarification requested.
Kind regards Belinda Aleagha
Procurement Category Officer
Commercial and Category Management Directorate, Ministry of Justice, Harcourt House, Chancellor Court, 21 The Calls, Leeds LS2 7EH
Tel: 0113 202 1047

What had happened in the meantime to halt the contract with the alleged winner or to change the way in which the buyer was managing the information about the whole ITT and the way in which they were communicating with myself?

I do not really know in detail but the following evidence suggests that a tension to cover up developed, together with further attempts to exploit my name and my own communication in an internal feud between senior civil servants and their youngest counterparts working (or wannabe baby quangos, temporarily let down by their contracted agencies) for the Government Digital Services, the "digital by defaul" creature invented by Martha Lane-Fox and former Minister for Cabinet Office Gabriel Maude.

As a matter of fact, the documents related to the ITT had disappeared completely from the Contracts Finder website in the meantime. I decided to submit a FOI request to know the names of the directors that had approved such ITT and should be considered accountable for it and why the documents from the Contracts Finder database had been removed.

The FOI request amplified the bullying atmosphere because it was interpreted by the other side possibly as a challenge. Their attitude did not change. It seemed instead they were just aiming at executing a script the only rationale of which was to induce wounded, losing, negative emotions for which nobody would be ever considered accountable - and they could go on again again and again, undetected or immune from any sanction at all, almost certain nobody would be willing to speak out about such an "unfortunate incident". The total absence of transparency on such behaviours was considered part of an internal self-reinforced and self-gratification pattern: what they were trying to say to themselves? I asked for some interpretative help to data protection officers and experts, through their mailing list and the feedback I received is incorporated into the FOI request summary, see 24th November update.

On the 10th and 11th November 2011, articles published in the Financial Times informed that the media buying division of WPP had lost in the High Court "a legal attempt to stop the UK government moving its £100m-per-year media-buying account to Carat, agency owned by rival Dentsu Aegis. […] ".

A final response to my FOI request arrived via email but was not published through the What do they know website. I received it on the 22nd December 2014 from a certain John Phynn. The letter "Moj IR 94612 - FOI internal review" disclosed a level of institutional quarrel that I believe is unacceptable from the public purse perspective as well as from my own one: I am just a simple - well, possibly with exceptional data, information and communication expertise - but still ordinary self employed consultant wishing to get work through a public procurement process advertised as genuine. No matter if the contents, the names and the facts are true or false, the symbolism and the punctuation of the communication in response to my FOI request disclosed instead a desperately farcical and self-justifying attempt to abuse of a public process whilst the relevant contracts are agreed and kept secret behind doors, in spite of all the bells and whistles about open data and transparency. Actors recruited and often underpaid by agencies controlled by big financial-media groups are impersonating all sorts of customer services and civil servants working in dozens of departments from the MoD and MoJ to the Home Office, for the sake of our freedom of being bamboozled or our illusion of freedom of information?

Is all this within the scope of public procurement? does it make any sense that nobody is ultimately accountable for inventing, costing and performing arrogant institutional scams to impoverish and ridicule potential new competitors and prevent them from entering the field of public procurement?

The DWP opportunity

Among many other opportunities I came across at the end of June 2014, several seemed - at least from a methodological and procedural point of view - less vague and uncertain than the contract with the construction and transports company I mentioned in the previous article. I found interesting the possibility of a contract advertised by DWP. They were looking for an “Independent Assessment Assurance Provider”. The type of consultancy and operational work sought was fitting with my own value proposition - though it was still far from being finalised and had such terribly known embedded political risks of being decommissioned or abandoned any time.

The pre-engagement notice was dispatched by DWP on the 23rd June 2014 through the OJEU and with an ITT summary published through their own procurement portal. This said that:

“The Department for Work and Pensions intends to contract for an Independent Assessment Assurance Provider (IAAP) to provide an independent oversight of the clinical quality of its Health Services Assessment contracts. The IAAP service will be used to provide assurance on clinical quality by assuring a statistically valid sample of records, reports and health service professional portfolios. We are seeking organisations who can therefore provide these services across a range of different health service assessment contracts.”

I registered for the pre-engagement event arranged by the buyer in London for the 2nd July 2014. The provisional timetable was that the Authority should issue the Invitation to Tender in August 2014 and then award the contract by December 2014.

The Authority would not allow suppliers to respond by Consortia so that my main scope before, during and after the pre-engagement event would be to see how to practically access the opportunity to work either directly with DWP or to engage, as a sub-contractor, with other bigger companies without any formal strong collaborative framework or collaborative terms of reference in place. Would we be able to start talking about working together from scratch? Will the buyer present some miraculous solution in order to foster, accelerate or incentivise productive collaborations from a vacuum of common interests against the evidence of almost one century of scientific evidence on the matter? I must confess that I was extremely sceptical about such over optimistic scenario, having provided advice and training about collaborative working to teams operating in different markets and through various organisational and technical framework, from R&D and education to internet and software productions and IT services for many years. Working together is a painfully slow and dramatically structured process - even when supported by tons of pints, accelerators and funny things.

At any rate, the engagement event was well attended with a number of major consultancies and usual providers of auditing, risk management and assurance services to Government departments, all potentially able to start working together on something.

I was the only micro-business sole proprietorship attending the meeting as far as I can remember among about 20 representatives of various big consultancies, auditors and other usual Government suppliers. For a moment, I felt intimidated. But then I thought this might be the occasion for all of them to verify who and how brave I am.

We had very clear presentations by various members of the DWP team, introducing the DWP Commercial Directorate aim in respect of the Health Services Market IAAP procurement requirement (Bridge Platts) and explaining the decision behind the technicalities (John Mazzeo and Shelley Fuller, from the DWP Strategy Health and Wellbeing) to finish with the financial aspects and the payment models DWP Commercial Finance would like to explore (Alan Ward). The scope of having an external provider for both clinical assurance and non clinical audit functions for the new Health and Work Service (HWS) and for the Health and Disability Assessment Services (HDSAS) was clear. Such provider would that would operate across a range of different contracts.

But the following Q&A session (a log of which was kindly provided to all of us with this doc file) highlighted a general lack of focus and policies consistency on the side of the buyer: it seemed the practicalities of the ITT requirement to make the scope achievable, feasible and compatible with the intention to engage with an increased number of small businesses, in spite of the ambitious goal of chasing a “paradigm change” in procurement, was really long way off.

Few of us, including myself, wanted to understand more about the implicit "soft" aspects (such as conflict of interests, frictions, resistance and risk avoidance) that could undermine the project such, for instance, the integration of clinical and non clinical expertise; when, how, why general practitioners would accept to be assessed on how they assess disability by somebody who works for external providers of DWP - and often only on a temporary or freelance basis - or how to prevent the auditors from moving the goalposts when they are at the same time authors of the assessment criteria and actual examiners - with or without clinical credentials, in the absence of overarching standards agreed by everybody in a certain field of human knowledge.

I tried to make my point – and several eyes in the audience seemed to agree – that it is always preferable to separate the definition of assurance criteria from the actual auditing stage: this is true for both clinical and non clinical matters or whatever and in a number of contexts in which the separation of function works as a basic governance measure, to prevent biased decisions and rejection of assessment and judgements. The justice system is based on such basic principles. The education system is based on such basic principles. Why the health and wellbeing system should work differently? This is why standards exist at the end of the day: technical rules, by laws and standards fix a reference point out of the immediately competitive field or interests of a market player or a trust. When institutions fail to provide the right quality standards and assessment tools at the right time it is likely because they have missed an innovation train and do not have the right process in place anymore and that must updated or reinvented.

The Q&A session could continue online. I submitted the following technical questions, reported with the answers here:

  1. Q: A reference to an independent review DWP commissioned about quality assurance processes [presumably in 2013-2014] has been made during the presentation - slide "background and introduction p. 5". Would it be possible to provide access to the document containing the findings of such review? 

    A: The document referred to, as noted in the presentation, recommended the introduction of an independent assurance function. The report itself represented a snapshot of a given period in time and any issues identified have been addressed with the incumbent provider.
  2. Q: Although the entire work of the IAAP is assumed to be on electronic records, no reference has been made to assurance criteria or IT security requirements in respect of cyber crime risks (id est the risks of tampering of electronic records) at any stage of the supply and along the various processes involved in the organisation of the future Health and Work Service. The contract is not classified under 72300000 (Data Management) neither. Is this intentional? Can you provide specifications on the point?
    A: We do not have this level of detail at this point in the procurement. This will be included in the specification
  3. Q No reference has been made to other standards under a risk management and change management perspective - although the discussion highlighted that the supply falls into an innovative area in which a collaborative approach and shared methodologies (in the sense of industrial established standard) are highly needed. Is this intentional? Can you provide specifications on the point?
    A We do not have further details at this stage. This will be included in the specification.

So far, so good or at least nothing went lost, the time I spent on the ITT was quantifiable in about one or two days all together.

Nothing happened after the engagement event and the follow up session of online Q&A until December 2014. After I made the FOIA request about the MoJ ITT, a letter arrived in December 2014 informing that the most predictable solution had took over any other innovative approach:

“Following a period of due diligence the Department has decided to procure an interim short term Assurance contract from the existing Government Consultancy One Framework managed by the Crown Commercial Service. The Department will be formalising its future IAAP succession strategy during the middle of 2015. Any future contract opportunity would be advertised on Contracts Finder and through a notice in the Journal of the European Union.”

Conclusion

One year on, I suspended for more than six months any engagement with government departments. I have engaged again and re-registered or updated my details with a small number of procurement portals. I have not been granted the right to even compete for a public contract, so far and I have made clear with a number of Directors active in various strategic initiatives that the type and nature of consultancy services I can offer does not require most of the times the level of publicity that I am constantly nudged - or bombarded - to make via social media or through long chains of inefficient interactions with alleged government departments working on this or that campaign. Officials - or perhaps actors? - at the Minister of Defence and at the various Catapults have implemented the idea of pre engagement procurement events following the example of DWP, disengaging themselves from possible complex legal implications of a traditional approach to procurement, whereas nobody has even answered plain questions and simple proposals about very topical matters like: why the official MoD Contracts Bulletin has ceased or suspended its publication with the 18 March issue? would it be possible to consider my Contracts cleaner service instead of asking detailed business cases, briefs and requirements redress for free? In sum, I keep on putting forward a standard grammar to build successful collaborations.

The Prime Minister decided to take control over the Ministry of Justice policy on FOI requests. The MoJ Permanent Secretary Ursula Brennan retired. I suspect the Information Commissioner Christopher Graham - with whom I share the fact we were both employees of WPP long time ago - insists in retaining a gross power of interference within private and public affairs in the name of privacy rights and protection of vulnerable and disadvantaged families and individuals that no longer make sense in my opinion. Each penny, and each transaction impacting the public purse should be made simply and straightforwardly knowledgeable, accessible and understandable accordingly first of all to a chronology of facts or a timeline order. Pupils, disabled and vulnerable enjoy the heavy lights on their lives - not mafia secrecies and suspicious trafficking of personal details among lawyers. There is no reason why civil servants should not be identified and authenticate themselves in any transaction involving creating sharing and distributing personal data as well.

Theatre should find other ways to make money and get out of the spreadsheets and public processes. Credit should be given when credit is due to new competitors, no matter their size. Small businesses should have quotas of public outsourced work in any government department, not just be casted for consultations or to test the catering services.

A particular aspect of both the ITTs exercises described here was the general absence on the side of the buyers of any reference to information security issues, that I considered the first suspicious sign of forgery of the whole process: information security is a mainstream priority of any genuine civil servant I have spoken with in the last three years, that should be incorporated in any data and information management process, never trivialised or reduced.

Assessing the quality of information in our time consists first of all in assessing its credibility and utility in the public perception, eliminating risks of scams, frauds, forgeries and data tampering at the beginning of any evaluation process. Whenever a new goal is being defined, no matter if there are controversial political or social issues, it is convenient to slow down and think about security as an aspect of the problem, not as a tick-box, ancillary requisite for the solution.

I hope the long ranting has not discouraged you from reading my proposal for a study on civil courts users at the MoJ and to ask yourself if there is anything you have changed your mind about.

I will retire in 2030. And I am keen on taking paid public assignments, after eight years of enforced volunteering for a "big society" that is actually nothing more than a bad managed small world.


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