5.1 Craig Rodgerson, Justice & Secure Services, Capita, acknowledged that the service had fallen below an acceptable level. He explained that he was an executive director of Capita and reported to the main board on a monthly basis and stressed that when Capita had signed a contract it would never walk away without 100% commitment. The Justice & Secure Services Division provided IT for a number of councils including Bromley and Lewisham.
5.2 Craig Rodgerson stated that there were two aspects to the contract, maintaining business as usual and developing a new core enabling programme of system improvements. The data centre had been moved in March and April. Issues had arisen with Citrix in May but these had been fixed. Further issues arose with hardware, software and the physical load and by the end of October it was clear that things were going wrong. As a result, weekly governance meetings with the Strategic Director of Finance and Corporate Services had been initiated. The management team had been restructured and Craig Rodgerson emphasised that there was no constraint in terms of finance or staffing in order to resolve the problems.
5.3 Craig Rodgerson stated that two deadlines had been agreed with the Strategic Director of Finance and Corporate Services – to stabilise business as usual by Christmas and to achieve the core enabling programe, “the new world”, by February. Capita was very clear as to its contractual position and the council’s possible options should these deadlines not be met. It was also aware of the timetabling required around end of year billing and the elections. Craig Rodgerson emphasised again that Capita would stand by the contract but commented that, with hindsight, the staff handover might have been done differently.
5.4 Members reported problems experienced with logging in to the system. Craig Rodgerson agreed that a number of issues had surfaced in September, one of which being that the Citrix log-in script was over-elaborate. This was due to be simplified and, with other hardware fixes, the log-in time significantly reduced. The chair asked whether there were general problems with the IT estate. Craig Rodgerson responded that hardware failures were taking place and that it was not necessarily easy to find replacements.
5.5 Members asked when Capita had become aware of the state of the current system. Craig Rodgerson explained that Capita regularly picked up contracts and that some were better documented than others. The detail of a system was not necessarily fully understood until Capita had been in an estate for a while. In addition, in the case of Southwark, a number of key members of staff had not transferred so were not available to expand on the documentation. Members of the committee highlighted that at a previous meeting it had been suggested that equipment might have been taken from the server room. Ian Morrissey, Head of Applications, Data & Operations, and Richard Heap, Head of Technology, clarified that this was not the case but that it had been discovered that some servers that were thought to be operating were not in fact functioning.
5.6 A member asked why the system at Queens Road seemed to be failing on regular occasions and for details of the back-ups that were in place. Craig Rodgerson agreed to look into this and provide an update.
5.7 Members focussed on the transfer from Serco to Capita and asked if officers had taken a view on whether bidders for the contract had the capacity to deal with any unforeseen issues arising out of the transfer process. The Officers confirmed that the council had made use of a government procurement service framework for IT Managed Services which identified contractors able to deliver an IT management service the size of Southwark’s. Contractors had all been through the Cabinet Office’s selection process and subsequently through the council’s own procurement process in order to establish whether they were capable of delivering Southwark’s IT system. In addition, Capita had a record of success in other authorities.
5.8 Members asked for clarification of any change in the management structure. Craig Rodgerson confirmed that Capita had allocated additional resources to Southwark and that these would remain in place as long as was necessary. He explained that originally it had been anticipated that six members of staff would be needed on the help desk but that currently there were ten. Similarly, twenty members of staff were available in the support section in contrast to the original fourteen.
5.9 Members were concerned as to whether break clauses in the contract had been explored. The Officers indicated that a joint review of the options had been carried out. If Capita were found to be in breach then the council was able to terminate part or the whole of the contract at any time. In terms of day to day monitoring of the contract, performance against agreed key indicators took place every month. In terms of cost, a significant amount was being withheld from Capita in monthly payments.
5.10 Members were of the view that the previous contract had failed in terms of documentation, software, keeping staff in post and an exit strategy. They asked whether the question of possible financial compensation from Serco had been addressed. Officers explained that this had not yet been looked at in any detail.
5.11 Members were interested in, once a “new world” had been reached in February, how long it would be before a move to another “new world” would become necessary. Craig Rodgerson commented that, typically, an IT estate should be refreshed every five years at server level and every three years at desktop level. He confirmed that the system that Capita was aiming for would be built with reference to best practice and all changes fully documented.
5.12 The committee noted the two deadlines of Christmas and February and
That the Strategic Director of Finance and Corporate Services be asked to:
1. Provide a written update to the committee’s January meeting; and
2. Look at lessons to be learned as a result of ongoing issues with Capita’s management of the IT contract.