Thursday, 3 May 2007

What Methods?


"The Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) is the IT service that supports recruitment to medical training programmes in the UK . The performance of the service, the details of which I have already shared with you clearly do not warrant the criticisms that you are making of it. In order to protect the commercial interests of our supplier, I must insist that you do not make any further claims about MTAS without providing evidence that can be investigated."

These are the words of Patricia Hewitt in reply to Andrew Lansley who questioned the dubious performance of MTAS. This letter was written on the 30th of March. It is rather obvious given recent events that Patricia Hewitt was wrong to brush aside these concerns in such an arrogant and almost intimidating fashion. I have been doing some relevant digging.

Andersen consulting (now Accenture) were the sister group of the Arthur Andersen group, a firm that had been banned from all public contracts by the Tory government in the 80s due to their role in the
DeLorean Cars fraud scandal in Belfast. Andersen Consultants advised Labour on its economic policy for government, including maintaining tight public spending limits set by the Tories. Three of the key consultants that worked with Labour’s Gordon Brown, now chancellor of the exchequer, went on to become special advisers to the Blair government after it won the 1997 general election.

Patricia Hewitt, deputy chairman of the Social Justice Commission at the time and now health secretary was the first Labour stooge to take up a position with Andersen, as a “consulting director of research." Another great example of corruption and consulting is that of Alan Milburn. Accenture's bungling role in the NHS connecting for health IT scheme hardly escaped the attention of the press. Accenture was also let off very lightly by the government when it withdrew from 2billion pounds worth of contracts, they were fined less than 10% of the possible maximum fine despite their woeful performance. The NHS IT scheme continues to turn from disaster to disaster.

Methods Consuting are the firm behind the disastrous MTAS. Incredibly one of Methods' directors, a certain Mark Thompson, used to work for Andersen and states in his CV:

"is currently Chief Independent IT Strategy Advisor for the UK Shadow Cabinet under George Osborne, for whom he is working to develop IT policy initiatives that include the increased use of open source IT and procurement infrastructures across UK government, and addressing the 'Digital Divide'."

It turns out the role of Methods consulting has already been questioned in parliament:

Sir Paul Beresford: " To ask the Secretary of State for Health what tendering process was completed by Methods Consulting prior to the award of the contract for the recruitment of dentists from Poland; and what expertise they have in this field."

and

Sir Paul Beresford: " To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 10 March 2005, Official Report, column 1976W, on dentistry, whether Methods Consulting is under a contractual obligation to his Department to meet the target recruitment figure of 230 Polish dentists by October 2005; and what steps will be taken to meet any shortfall in the target figure."

Then more recently:

Andrew Lansley: "When is it expected to resume? Methods Consulting runs MTAS. The Secretary of State referred to a breach of contract. What action is being considered about that? Could the actions—or inaction—of Methods Consulting or others amount to a criminal offence under data protection legislation? Will that be investigated? Will a thorough, independent investigation—not by a company that Methods Consulting brings in—take place into the causes of the security lapses and to ascertain whether other breaches, about which we do not know, occurred?"


David Taylor: "Will she bring in the Office of Government Commerce to consider the lamentable lapse by Methods Consulting, which seems to have been instrumental in this latest debacle?"

Rob Harris: "Can she tell me whether Methods has had its contract terminated over those two security breaches, and if not, why not?"

Ms Hewitt: "No, we have not terminated the contract with Methods. It is responsible for the MTAS site."

I thought I would highlight one of Patricia Hewitt's answers:

Ms Hewitt: "I have already explained what we are doing about the two lapses that took place last week, and the failures of Methods—human failings rather than inbuilt system failings—which allowed that to happen."

It is astonishing that she tries to defend the Methods consulting system by pinning the blame on individuals. Surely if one or two small errors can wreak such havoc then the system is far from foolproof? Any system failure could be pinned on indivudals in this way, I've seen this in the NHS on many an occassion.

Ms Hewitt: "I have already explained what we are doing about the two lapses that took place last week, and the failures of Methods—human failings rather than inbuilt system failings—which allowed that to happen."

I am sure there is more corruption to be unearthed here. It is certainly going to be a little harder for Methods consulting to escape the public's radar. Will they be held to account for this disaster, or more likely will they recieve a little slap on the wrist followed by yet another juicy government contract?

2 comments:

Levans said...

This appeared in an email to me several weeks ago. Don't know if it is helpful to you in digging for dirt on the Arthur Anderson thread
** Message **
As a father of three so called junior doctors I am a strong supporter of all you
are trying to do.

You may be interested in this article concerning Pat Hewitts background before
1997. Andersons performed with Hewitts help an enormous amount of free research
for Blair in return expecting lucrative government contracts. About as corrupt
as it gets

** Labour's Arthur Andersen links **
Accountants Andersen and former sister company Accenture helped develop many of
the key elements of New Labour's best known policies.
< http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/1/hi/uk_politics/1791168.stm >

Levans from RemedyUK Forum

mens sana said...

Interesting-well dug,FF

I have a strong feeling that if (when?) an inquiry is held into the failure of government IT procurement for the NHS some rather unpleasant skeletons may tumble out of a few closets. Presumably this was widespread throughout Labour's procurement and casts their claim to be "whiter than white" and "a pretty straight sort of a guy" in an interesting light