TG: EGOV Shambles Is A Paradigmatic Example Of Lack Of Transparency And Accountability
Together Gibraltar has issued a statement claiming Minister Isola presented “accounts that fused together real eService expenses with other recurring IT&LD expenses as a smokescreen to evade proper scrutiny”.
A statement from Together Gibraltar follows below:
“It is not possible to give a breakdown of ''general costs'' in respect of all matters relating to the delivery of eServices as the entire Government digital network including all hardware, software, security, maintenance, licensing - all combine and contribute to the delivery of eServices.”
These statements, made by Minister Albert Isola in Parliament, were the response to question Question No 64/2021, put forward by TG leader Marlene Hassan Nahon in Parliament on the 19th May session. These statements are a smoke screen. Minister Isola presented accounts that fused together real eService expenses with other recurring IT&LD expenses as a smokescreen to evade proper scrutiny. This press release includes the detail of the real eGov expenses extracted from the information provided to parliament, after TG carried out the simple, informed analysis that the minister was unable or unwilling to perform.
Deloittes was the company chosen by Government to be the “architects" of their eGov project. The total paid to Deloittes just on consultancy fees is £6.7m, with Deloitte Gibraltar receiving just over £1.4m and Deloitte UK receiving the remaining £5.3m plus - at this stage it is worth noting that the same company that was hired as consultants was then hired to execute the services, which is, if not something worse, terrible business praxis. £6.7m, is already an enormous bill for advice on a small eGov platform, however, if you add up the total of all other the services, consultancies, products etc. recommended by Deloitte, the total expenditure rises to over £13.4m. This is the true breakdown of the cost of the Digital Service/eGov project in the last 3.5 years.
Minister Isola then went on to say: “The costs are broken down year by year ( as accurately as we have been able to in the time available) over the past 3 years and include the significant costs incurred this last year in accelerating the Basic eServices across Government with the resultant delay to the delivery of the Main eServices project.”
The fact that Minister Isola claims that a spreadsheet with many unrelated expenses bundled together is the best his department can do shows a profound contempt for the role Parliament as the fundamental tool for the scrutiny of Government, and illustrates the problem of accountability in Gibraltar. When opposition parties ask the right questions they never receive proper answers, nor are there consequences for this practice. The lack of accountability we suffer is such, that Government never responded to the GGCA’s press release issued a few days later stating that:
“The GGCA Executive committee is concerned regarding Minister Isola’s response to Question No 64/2021 in Parliament yesterday, which required him to detail costs relating to the E-Government platform. Given the dispute declared in 2018 by the GGCA against Minister Isola in his capacity as Minister for Digital Services in relation to Information Technology & Logistics Department (“IT&LD ”), the GGCA was bemused at Minister Isola’s conflation of eServices expenses with unrelated longstanding IT&LD expenses. Minister Isola is well aware of the expenses that relate to IT&LD and the expenses that relate to the Ministry for Digital and Financial Services. Indeed, Minister Isola himself appointed a Chief Officer for eServices who is and has been the controlling officer for all expenditure incurred relating to the E Government platform.
The GGCA would like to highlight that much of the E-Government project was undertaken without, and often against, IT&LD professional advice and the E Government contracts were not managed by IT&LD.”
When one analyses this lack of response, knowing the penchant of this government for scathing retorts, one can only assume it should be interpreted as an admission of guilt.
THE REALITY TODAY
Currently there is only ONE fully developed Eservice that has been developed after 3.5 years and £13.4m. The ETB is a full, back-end digital system, an EGov platform worthy of its name that can fully process services independently. However, the rest of the services are, so far, still nowhere near the standard necessary to consider them proper EGov services. They amount to glorified email portals where people can attach and send documents, with civil servants on the other side receiving, downloading, processing and manually inputing data just as they would in a counter. This does not save any labour or time to our civil servants, nor does it provide any value for money for the Gibraltarian taxpayer.
To sum it all up we have £13.4m spent in 3.5 years (as of May, a number that has surely grown since), in return for ONE fully operative eGov department - that’s not counting salaries of civil servants dedicated to the project, such as the Chief Officer for eServices. To top it all off, we have the Minister responsible avoiding responsibility and presenting confusing data to Parliament which does not present a true picture of the reality, to corroborate his arguments.
In a democracy worthy of its name, the pressure for Minister Isola to resign would be simply unbearable.
(Below is a spreadsheet issued by Together Gibraltar)