20 November 2007

Lost in the post

So the UK Government has just lost the bank details of 25 million people. Well, actually, no, it hasn't 'just' lost them, it lost them a couple of weeks ago but has only just deigned to tell us. Oh dear.

And it's blame game time. I choose to assign blame to the UK Government's cack-handed piecemeal approach to change - tinkering round the edges here, stapling things on there. In this case, it left an awkward halfway house with people's personal details.

Of course, if the Government had not gone so big on BACS and Direct Payments, and stuck with the old benefit payment book system, it would have needed to take far fewer details, so this would be less of an issue now. And, incidentally, perhaps the Post Office network wouldn't be sinking deeper and deeper into the mire, but that's another matter.

But far more problematically, this shows what happens when the different parts of the Government are not joined up. These data needed never have been stuck on a CD and sent in the internal mail in the first place!

All that needed to happen was for the National Audit Office to have access to the appropriate part of the HMRC database. All it would have taken was one e-mail to the right person, containing one link to the right file on the right server. And obviously for the relevant permissions to be set up on the HMRC's network. They didn't even need to e-mail the file, much less burn it onto a CD and ship it to the NAO by courier.

My office's IT department can do that, despite the fact that when something goes wrong with our scanner, we can diagnose and fix the problem sooner than they can. Yet they can do this thing, that would save so much time, involve fewer people, and not involve the details of 25 million bank accounts just getting lost in the post.

Think about that: a housing association with an IT Department whose colleagues try to bypass completely is able to offer an efficient, secure way of exchanging files and information. But the UK Government is not.

What is wrong with these people?!

No comments: