Massive task looms for Revenue and Customs CIO

The new CIO of the combined Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise will almost certainly come from the private sector, and the onerous task of running both IT departments will attract plenty of interest, according to IT experts.

However the successful applicant has been warned that they will fail the ‘massive task’ ahead of them without the support of the board.

Phil Peters, director of the technology practice at executive recruitment firm Norman Broadbent, said the success of the role would ‘depend on the governance of the IT function’.

‘It’s not necessarily about the quality of the individual, but the structure and strategy around them,’ he said.

The new role has been created with a private sector appointment in mind, according to John Handby, chief executive of CIO forum and networking organisation CIO-Connect.

It follows the recruitment of other private sector CIOs to government roles, such as former ICI Paints COO Joe Harley’s recent appointment as IT director for the Department for Work and Pensions (DwP).

Handby refused to speculate on potential suitors, but remarked that it would ‘need to be someone with an iron determination combined with a thick skin’.

‘I am currently consultant adviser to a government agency,’ he said, ‘so I know of some of the challenges – the sheer size of the databases involved, the hazards of making changes in the public glare, the checks and balances structured into the public sector environment, the unhelpful gaze of the Public Audit Committee.’

But there will be no shortage of applicants, according to former Royal Mail group IT director Les Graney.

‘People take up these kind of roles for the challenge, not necessarily for the money,’ he said. ‘The candidate will need a strong background in business change, especially regarding practices, processes and procedures – basically someone who’s been through it all before.’

The executive board in charge of the recruitment process will now include David Varney, the current chairman of mobile-phone giant mmO2, who has been appointed executive chairman of the soon-to-be merged department.

The recruitment board will be chaired by Baroness Prashar, the first civil-service commissioner. Other members will be Revenue chairman Ann Chant, Customs chairman Mike Eland and DwP non-exec John Cross.

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