Monday, November 13, 2006

Questions on Identity Cards for James Hall

Tomorrow at 4pm Downing Street will be holding a webchat with James Hall, Chief Executive of the Identity and Passport Service, who will be talking about implementing ID Cards. One question that could be asked is this...

In your previous job at Enron's accountants Accenture you were responsible for a £2 billion contract to build a database of medical records for the NHS. How did you allow the project to fall three years behind schedule and can we expect the same level of expertise with the ID card system? Accenture pulled out in September, blaming “significant delays” and wrote off £260 million in the process - how much of this was down to you?

So if you'd like to ask this or similar questions log onto http://www.pm.gov.uk from 4pm tomorrow (Tuesday).

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Will be doing this. It'll be interesting to hear how the government thinks this is goign to run smoothly given its stupenduous successes in other IT projects- ummm.

Hitchenophile said...

Iain,

Accenture (previously Andersen Consulting) weren't Enron's accountants; that was Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm.

Although they shared a name and were the same company a long time ago, they hadn't been linked in any substantive way since the 70s.

Suggest you alter the post to reflect this; Accenture get very twitchy when they're confused with Arther Andersen, for obvious reasons.

Anonymous said...

How can someone who's in charge of fluffing up a giant NHS project like this find himself getting work in government? Who hired him? What salary is he on?

Anonymous said...

Hitchenophile: (from wikipedia)

In 1989, Arthur Andersen and Andersen Consulting became separate units of Andersen Worldwide. Andersen increased its use of accounting services as a springboard to sign up clients for Andersen Consulting's more lucrative business.

The two businesses spent most of the 1990s in a bitter dispute. Andersen Consulting saw a huge surge in profits during the decade. However, the consultants continued to resent transfer payments they were required to make to Arthur Andersen. In 2000 an international arbitrator granted Andersen Consulting its independence, but awarded the $1.2 billion in past payments (held in escrow pending the ruling) to Arthur Andersen, and declared that Andersen Consulting could no longer use the Andersen name. As a result Andersen Consulting changed its name to Accenture on New Year's Day 2001.

Anonymous said...

Iain - you're being a bit harsh on Mr Hall here. Have a chat to Richard Bacon of South Norfolk and PAC fame, who really understands what's going on. Ask him why Accenture withdrew, and you may find that the finger points not at James Hall but at a Health Department that hasn't a clue. Given half a chance, I suspect Mr Hall's former bosses might happily shoot Messrs Milburn, Reid and Ms (ex-Accenture) Hewitt.

esquared said...

Hitchenophile: (from wikipedia)

In 1989, Arthur Andersen and Andersen Consulting became separate units of Andersen Worldwide. Andersen increased its use of accounting services as a springboard to sign up clients for Andersen Consulting's more lucrative business.

The two businesses spent most of the 1990s in a bitter dispute. Andersen Consulting saw a huge surge in profits during the decade. However, the consultants continued to resent transfer payments they were required to make to Arthur Andersen. In 2000 an international arbitrator granted Andersen Consulting its independence, but awarded the $1.2 billion in past payments (held in escrow pending the ruling) to Arthur Andersen, and declared that Andersen Consulting could no longer use the Andersen name. As a result Andersen Consulting changed its name to Accenture on New Year's Day 2001.

esquared said...

From the NO2ID newsletter:

According to their website, Accenture has alliances with 49 companies (see www.accenture.com/Global/Services/Alliances/default.htm); of these companies ten are listed by UKIPS as wanting a slice of the ID card action (see http://www.identitycards.gov.uk/downloads/Company_Profiles_Directory.pdf). Might Mr. Hall not experience some conflicts of interest?

Voyager said...

Europeans travelling from one country to another carry EHIC cards to pay for basic health care, yet no British NHS facilities have EHIC Card Readers even though Britain introduced them later than any other country.

Germany already has a Medical Smart ID Card with dedicated Card Readers and scanners.

Britain has no Card Readers but an unwieldly NHS Computer Project whose only functional component is "Choose & Book" which reduces a GP to being a travel agent spending 20 minutes online for each patient.

Hasn't Britain got a track record of designing IT systems from Whitehall downwards rather than the Application upwards ?

Isn't the reason that no Govt IT project functions properly simply that it is designed to please only the indecisive Government and not designed with The User in mind ?

verity said...

My question would be, how can you proceed with this totalitarian project without the permission of the electorate?

ramalamadingdong! said...

Accenture were never Enron's accountants.

Dr Random said...

On the subject of government IT projects, here's an interesting snippet from the Register

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/11/13/it_chief_revelation/


In my experience, the larger the IT project, the farther it is divorced from the real people on the ground who have to use it, and the farther it is divorced from the people (like me) who have to design and build it. It becomes an exercise in politics for the sponsors, and not a practical one.

This inevitably leads to failure, either total, or worse, partial failure, where the system is used purely to save face but doesn't perform its job properly (many government projects in this category).

The ID Card project screams disaster before it has even started. Just about everyone working in IT who doesn't have a vested interest knows this. Why the government thinks "this time it will be different" I have no idea.


Even IF it could be made to "work", we then have the even bigger questions of expense, liberty and usefulness...

Hitchenophile said...

Esquared and Anonymous (3.25pm):

Wikpedia is both right and wrong (how rare!). The best analogy between the two firms is that of NATO. Britain is a member of NATO, as is Germany; but Britain and Germany are not the same entity and indeed, either could withdraw from NATO any time it liked. In this analogy, Andersen Worldwide is NATO.

The distinctions between the fims is actually even wider than that if you want to go into detail: every country in which both Arthur Andersen and Andersen Consulting operated had a discrete partnership structure that was registered in each country.

This meant in essence that Arthur Andersen in the UK had a minimal relationship with the Arthur Andersen practices in any other country in the world (and vice versa). The same was true for Andersen Consulting; although since 2001, and the name change, Accenture is a single company listed in New York. And Arthur Andersen is a burnt-out shell...

Anonymous said...

pc copperfield is very good on id cards in his book 'wasting police time'. the whole thing is a sham and a shambles and will cost billions to no effect, i'd say.

rob

AnyonebutBlair said...

Andersen (now Accenture) employed / financed Labour during the early mid-90's (Hewitt was research director), Andersen had links with a number of the Blind Trusts used to finance the then Shadow Cabinet. Now Labour in government returns the favour by employing ex-Accenture partners (it's not as if they need the money!!). Ian Watmore UK Government CIO, Gill Rider Cabinet office head of HR, James Hall head of ID cards....
A good question that I'll be posing James (if I can):
"Please explain the nature of your personal and commercial relationships still in place with Accenture and any existing shareholding, share options or restricted equity units. Please explain how that and your previous roles and long history with Accenture can allow you to be independant in the selection of IT, System Integration and Consulting partners within your role in running the ID cards programme?"

Shotgun said...

Not only Enrons accountants but NEW LABOURS ACCOUNTANTS, who worked for free for New Labour from 1994 to 1997 formulating the economic policy of Gordon Brown....

Why you don't think that also worth mentioning I don't know.

Andersen Consulting and Arthur Andersen were very closely allied and actually part of the same business at one time, so I would leave the post as it was.

James Maskell said...

Give em hell guys. The ID Cards is completely unjustifiable and is a financial burden and an over the top reaction to the threat from terrorism.

uk-events said...

I can't do it. I simply cannot leave a question other than "who the fuck do you people think you are imposing this draconian bullshit on us?".

But then, I don't want to go "on file" as a "subversive".

Welcome to 21st Century Britain.

Voyager said...

Accenture were never Enron's accountants.

Accenture was the Consulting Arm not the Accounting Arm

Andersen, which had testified previously before a congressional subcommittee that it tried to warn Enron of possibly illegal accounting in its financial statements, said it notified the Justice Department and the SEC about the documents' disposal.

Andersen said its employees "disposed of a significant but undetermined number of electronic and paper documents and correspondence relating to the Enron engagement." The auditor said its document-handling policy, which it has suspended, sometimes required such documents be disposed of or deleted, and added that some of the files had since been retrieved. It is in the process of trying to retrieve others via backup systems, noting that millions of other documents related to the audit "still exist."

Anonymous said...

Voyager 4:03pm

"Britain has no Card Readers but an unwieldly NHS Computer Project whose only functional component is "Choose & Book" which reduces a GP to being a travel agent spending 20 minutes online for each patient."

Small clarification replace "Britain" with England. The NHS Computer Project is a project belonging to the NHS in England. The NHS in the other 3 countries of the UK is the responsibility of their devolved administrations and is not involved in this project. The BBC seem to think their is only one NHS in the UK

On ID cards it will be interesting to see how the UK government will get the devolved administrations to incorporate some of the stated uses and benefits in to areas of devolved responsibility.

Umbongo said...

Iain

Perhaps you could ask Mr Hall to spell out exactly and in detail how having ID cards would have prevented 7/7 since all the perpetrators would have legitimately been holders of said cards.

Beachhutman said...

LIke, what assurances have Accenture been given it won't be liable when the scheme proves a honey pot for crooks, and people start losing identities, money, property, liberty, lives?

Anonymous said...

I may be a simple soul, but I just can't fathom or feel entirely confident in the logistics of how the implementation of a proposed 'biometric' ID card scheme will work in practice and how the required data will be gathered and managed.

I have read somewhere that it may take up to 30 minutes to gather the biometric details of each individual to gather the data required of the card. That is of course assuming that the technology actually works. http://jonesforcongress2006.typepad.com/jones_for_congress/2006/08/intelligence_ge.html

Consequently, if the entire population is to be 'measured' this must equate to 60,000,000 people x 30 minutes, which by my rough calculation equals 30,000,000 hours, or about 1,250,000 days, or 342 years of data collection time to assess everyone currently living in the UK.

Will we be expected to go somewhere and queue up to have all this invasive work done, or will people come to the house? If so, who? Will we be offered recompense for our time waiting in line, or expected/ordered so to do under pain of sanction?

And, when we do turn up for testing how are we definitively 'prove' who we are?... take along a current gas bill?

Surely the only way to do this is at birth when either a chip could be installed, or a bar-code tattooed on the baby's bum for subsequent cross-reference with blood/dna samples taken from the as yet innocent, but capable of future crime, young person. cf Minority Report.

And who will pay the salaries of these data harvesters? And what will happen if we don't turn up for our appointment for scanning? Or if for whatever reason our bio-data is not able to be processed?

And who will be able to access the data contained on our card? Will there be readers in Tesco's? Or every social services office? Or the doctors? Will every police station be equipped? Again who will pay?

Or if our ID is challenged will we be shipped off to some Kafkaesque tower block for assessment...and re-programming?

Given the success rate of Government-led technology-based systems to date, is there anyone out there confident that they will be able to deliver a workable and perhaps more importantly affordable ID system?

Voyager said...

Can the NHS in Scotland read EHIC Cards ?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

The E111 form is no longer valid. You will need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to receive necessary healthcare during a visit to an European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland.

Anonymous said...

"How can someone who's in charge of fluffing up a giant NHS project like this find himself getting work in government?"

well it worked for John Reid!

Anonymous said...

Iain,

Do please get your facts right, I expect more of you.

Other comments have clarified the difference between Accenture (Andersen Consulting) and Arthur Andersen. They were completely separate companies since 1989.

As for the NHS project: it pains me to say it but only the Guardian really seems to understand what's going on with that project; their coverage has been more or less accurate. Contrast this with both the Times and Telegraph which have consistently been wrong. Accenture were actually the best performing provider having installed about 80% of the total of new systems - but they saw that CfH were continually changing the scope of the deal, as is the case with most Government contracts - and decided they were better off out. The other LSP's have so far, successfully hidden the losses they've made on this project.

As for other comments about Accenture being politically savvy - what's wrong with that? If you couldn't see the Conservatives were going to lose the 97 election and weren't doing anything to position your firm accordingly; then you're pretty dumb.

FYI having worked at the Home Office; and knowing what a total shambles the place is I agree with ID cards and only on this basis. Anything has to be better than the current situation.

Anonymous said...

Government projects are stitched together between ministers/senior officials and the IT industry in a private club called the chemistry club (www.thechemistry.co.uk)

Anonymous said...

Well. So much for "webchat". What a load of rubbish it was.

My guess is that James Hall was nowhere near the event.

If they're going to do it, why don't No 10 do it properly and show that those on the other end of the line are alive and kicking. Perhaps they might even rent the studios from 18DS?