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UK.gov back-office battle may see British Justice offshored

May shift to private sector, may offshore parts, may have head-arse ID problem

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The Ministry of Justice is reviewing the current way back office functions are deployed, citing further cost savings as the reason for doing so – and not, as our sources state, because of departmental in-fighting.

Under the Next Generation Shared Service Strategy (NGSSS) rolled out by the Cabinet Office last March, the plan was to reduce the number of departmental service centres from eight to five, generating estimated savings of £400m to £600m.

Independent Shared Service Centres were taken on by the private sector, with BPO player Avarto acquiring the DfT's existing centre in Swansea. Last November Steria formed a joint venture with the Cabinet Office to consolidate finance, procurement and HR for the DWP, Defra and the Environment Agency.

In both cases, the services are made available to other private and public sector organisations to use, though Avarto's centre is more suited to smaller departments and Steria, based on Oracle, is for larger ones.

The MoD, HMRC and MoJ ran three standalone Shared Service Centres and in the case of the MoJ, one team ran back office functions for 90,000 users working in prisons, probations and courts.

But less than a year after the NGSSS strategy doc, an MoJ spokeswoman told us: "The department is considering options for the future delivery of back office admin services.

"All options will be evaluated to make sure they provide value for taxpayers' money, " she added, "We will work with staff, trade unions and other stakeholders to assess any impacts on staff."

We are told that offshoring could feature in future plans, though some of the sensitive data is not legally allowed to leave these shores.

Our sources close to the matter said the reason for the MoJ shift is because the service centre failed to work correctly, and it may look to move into Steria's outsourcing deal.

"Every government department thinks shared services are great as long as it is their one being used. None of them want to change their back-office processes," said one contact.

In the MoJ there were at least three different processes, a source claimed.

But the MoJ said "efficiency savings is the driving force behind the change, [there is] no conflict we are looking to resolve". ®

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