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Winning?

Winning?

I’ve been having a rather quiet week, for some reason, although there have been two notable successes.

Work seems to have hit one of those periodic phases where I’ve done all I can and am now waiting for assorted other (and rather more busy) people to review what I’ve been doing. Of course when they do I go back to not having enough time in the day to do everything, of course. Still it keeps you off the streets.

To fill in some of the yawning gaps in the working day – well, while I’m eating my lunchtime sandwich, anyway – I’ve been reading a series of “Focus on…” briefing papers the PCG has produced in time for the party conference season. These cover a range of subjects, most if not all of which I may have touched on myself in here, from ICT abuse to IR35 to the soon-to-be-infamous AWR.

But the one that is closest to my heart, having been banging on about since early 2003, is the one on Security Clearance. Well not clearance itself, which does exactly what it is supposed to do, but the whole tangled Catch-22 of trying to get it and why it is doing a whole segment of contractors and a whole segment of government work a major disservice by denying access for the former to the latter.

In effect, clearance status overrides competency. No wonder so many public sector contracts go so wrong.

Anyway. The one thing I might take issue with in the paper is the claim by the Cabinet Office that clearance process times are coming down significantly. They quote Cerberus as the reason why: you may recall me talking about Cerberus recently.

OK, so you will forgive the hollow laugh.

My clearance – a humble CTC, mind you, nothing too heavy – finally turned up this week. That’s precisely 147 days since I submitted the original application back in May. Or, to put it another way, a mere 112 days over the stated SLA for processing CTC clearances in 85% of cases. And given I’ve worked several cleared roles over the years, including a stint in the Cabinet Office, you might suppose that mine would have been in the 85% range.

But a slight clue as to what may be going wrong is in the email I got telling me the clearance had come through. We’ve been badgering the client for weeks about my situation and how difficult it is for a one man band like me to work when I can’t move around the building. When they got the nod, they passed it over immediately. At which point I discovered that the clearance runs from 12th of August.

In other words, it’s taken a month for DVA to tell my end client that I’d been cleared. Brilliant…

Anyway, I rush down to the office to get the badge, fill out yet another piece of paper (a blue one this time) and present myself to the lady wot does. “Oh sorry”, says she, “Our badge printer is broken. Can you come back tomorrow?” Aaarrghhh…

Never mind, all done now. My coffee consumption has quadrupled overnight. Success…

Oh yes, the other success. Got off the train last night and was walking through the ticket hall at the station – the ticket hall, note, full of rush-hour people and manifestly not the car park or the approach road – and was confronted by some middle-aged GoreTex-clad loon in a silly plastic hat riding his bicycle through the crowds towards my not insubstantial presence. I was so flabbergasted I simply stopped still in front of him. At which point he suddenly realised I was there and did a sharp left. Straight into one of Mr Brunel’s rather substantial stone pillars. Didn’t do his front wheel a lot of good, although his stupid hat did stop him smacking his head on it. Shame…

Sadly I left before the advancing and rather irate-looking railway official had words with him. But strike one for the pedestrians.

About the author: Alan Watts

Alan has worked in IT for most of the last 35 years, and first went freelance in 1996. He has been a PCG member from its start and has been spreading the message that freelancing is a professional career choice for many years. Alan also runs Malvolio’s Blog, a personal but highly informative take on the life of the modern freelance.

Alan Watts, Principal Consultant, LPW Computer Services

© 2011 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Image: RxR bike crash by atlbike

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