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Government IT review could scrap industry council

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The talking shop that has wrestled with some of the most stubborn disagreements between government and the IT industry faces being annexed or disbanded by e-government boss Ian Watmore.

The fate of the Senior IT Forum is still being decided in talks between its co-sponsors, trade association Intellect, the Office of Government Commerce and Watmore's e-Government Unit.

But its function is likely to be subsumed into a wider raft of measures to be introduced in Watmore's National Strategy for Government IT on 2 November that could repair fractured relations between government and industry.

Industry expects a family of talking shops to be announced, including a forum with the working title Public Sector Council that will acquire the strategic responsibilities of the Senior IT Forum.

Gareth Bunn, head of government and public sector at Capgemini, who sits on the IT Forum, said: "The Senior IT Forum has been dissolved and replaced by a different forum to be agreed by the eGU and OGC."

"In my personal view, it got hung up on the same agenda items every meeting that we're not focused on the strategic issues facing government and the IT industry."

Part of the problem, he said, was that there where not enough senior industry representatives on the forum, with suppliers sending marcoms people to represent their interests.

Another Forum member, who preferred not to be named, said he did not expect to be sitting on the new forum when it was flushed, but insisted it was not being disbanded but "reconstituted" with people who could talk at Watmore's level.

"It's been recognised that it needs a new lease of life," he said. "Things need to change."

"It's not saying the IT Forum was rubbish, but there's a new direction for IT strategy to government," he added.

Nick Kalisperas, Intellect's e-government head, said continuing talks were deciding what form government and industry relations would take in the future.

"We are not in a position to discuss this publicly because not all of this has been agreed yet," he said.

"There will be a role for a Senior IT Forum type-body in the revised structure," he added.

He insisted relations between Intellect, the OGC and the eGU were "probably stronger" than they had ever been since the Senior IT Forum was launched five years ago.

The forum was born from the McCartney Review of Major Government IT Projects in 2000, which sought to address the abysmal track record of public sector IT and advised: "Implementing an improved approach will be impossible if relationships with suppliers are poor or procurement is badly done."

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