IT and skills shortage: don’t blame the schools

There is something very rotten and self destructive at the heart of government.

Lack of competent skills.

The decision to award the UK's multi-billion-pound West Coast Main Line rail franchise to FirstGroup has been scrapped by the government.

WestCoast Mainline

The transport secretary said there were "significant technical flaws" in the bidding process because of mistakes by Department for Transport staff. Three civil servants have been suspended.

The estimated cost of reimbursing four companies for the cost of their bids will be £40m. The bill, of course will be paid by the British taxpayer. As if we can afford it!

What is wrong with the British civil service? Is it so driven by process and procedure that decision-making becomes entangled in bureaucratic red tape and an inability to think and see things through logically? Civil servants seem like little boys fast falling over their shoelaces because they haven't tied them properly.

This isn't the first this has happened. Bad public procurement decisions seem to plague all the incumbents of No 10. Not only did we have to scrap the £4.5 billion identity card scheme in 2010, but the £12 billion NHS IT System was also scaled back rather dramatically. Not that I supported either of them. There was never a business case for ID cards in the first place with the decision made by an over reactive and neurotic Labour Government wanting more control over what we do. The NHS IT system failed because (1) government wanted to see results within 5 years before the next election; (2) it kept adding on new requirements which sent the costs sky high; and (3) government failed to understand interoperability and the fact that one standard size didn't fit all.

Never mind the lack of skills of school and college leavers that many are complaining about, there seems to be a succinct lack of core competencies amongst those in some government departments. £40 million wasted is an enormous amount which business and individual tax payers must find. Some businesses don't event turn over one hundredth of that amount. It should be mandatory for civil servants to work in a real business environment first before they are allowed to hand out money in this way. Earning money is very different from just being given a budget to spend it.

The real 'nail in the coffin' in this dirty scandal is if the 3 civil servants who have been suspended are sacked and given golden goodbye handshakes for their clearly stunning performances.