Tag Archive | "ICT abuse"


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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We live in interesting times

I know I keep banging on about ICT abuse, but I make no apologies for it. The systematic destruction of one of the few things we do well in the pursuit of short-term gain is getting well beyond a joke. Just look at what’s been reported in the last week or so.

Firstly, it seems that British business is in dire straits, utterly unable to get the skilled staff it needs to fill some key roles. Therefore, we mustn’t put any kind of cap on intra-company transfers or we will go even more bankrupt than we already are.

OK, so explain this. While most companies need a hundred or so ICTs a year to bring in their key personnel, how come just five of them consume over 10,000 a year? If these highly skilled employees are so necessary, why are the people already doing the job being tasked with teaching the newcomers how to do it? Isn’t the point of an ICT that the holder knows what they’re doing already?

Also why, may I ask, if one of the key tests for granting an ICT is that the imported worker should not displace an established worker, why are increasing numbers of established workers being displaced as soon as possible?

Or if we really can’t supply the skilled staff we need out of the thousands of out of work contractors and the 17,000 IT graduates who can’t get work, just why aren’t UK companies training the people they need from their existing workforce?

Then I read of someone whose freelance colleagues have been told they have to become employees of the agency – not, you notice, the client – at a set maximum salary. Needless to say, they have universally decided that’s not how they want to live their lives and are leaving as their contracts run out. So now they’ve been asked to stay on long enough for their replacements to get their visas processed and receive training and mentoring on how to do the job of the departing freelance.

Kafkaesque, isn’t it?

There are faint glimmers of hope. For example, the suggestion is that you have to pay an ICT at least £40,000 a year – and that’s meant to be a genuine salary, not £20,000 plus subsidised accommodation, flights, and other ethereal additions to make the numbers look good. Although that’s been offset by the threat not to include ICTs in the immigration cap. After all, they’re not going to swap the ICT for a Tier 1 after a while and stay here, are they? Oh, hang on a minute…

The Coalition have been researching and consulting very hard on this whole subject. They have been lobbied by groups such as the PCG who feel they would rather like to hang on to their market, and by others who business model seems to be based on taking that market and moving it elsewhere. I think the policy will make interesting reading. I don’t think, however, that I’m going to like it very much.

Never has that old Chinese curse seemed so totally apt…

Alan Watts can found at LinkedIn.
© 2010 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Image: Say No to new Japanese Immigration Procedures! by stbeck

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Who needs an IT industry anyway?

I’ve written before about the confusion in the debate about immigration and the constant refusal of government and the press to separate genuine immigration from abuse of the system, especially the misuse of the ICT programme. That debate has been raging for a while now and remains unresolved, although we did think we might be getting the message across.

Then, all of a sudden it seems we have a major triumph. We, via our fiends (sic) in Brussels, have just signed a trade agreement with India. Nothing much wrong in that by itself, we need to trade and India is a growing economy. But look a little deeper…

In exchange for India relaxing its import rules so the EU can sell into that market, we have apparently agreed to give their engineers, IT workers, project managers and other skilled trades virtually unlimited access to our market. OK, so it’s a free world and we all have to get work where we can at the best rate we can. But given that India’s official language is English, and there aren’t that many English-speaking countries in the EU – even if you count Scotland – I somehow get the feeling that the traffic in this direction will be rather heavily biased in our direction.

Again, not a problem, except that, as with the ICT scam, these aren’t likely to be long-term immigrants. Some will no doubt be here for a long time, and some will genuinely contribute to the UK economy. But I have a nagging feeling that an awful lot of them will be here to learn how to do the job we’re doing for ourselves and then move it back home where the labour rates are considerably cheaper. That might cut the bottom line but it is a horribly short-term view of things. It won’t take too long before all the real work in IT, for example, is offshored and our service economy – once one of the world’s strongest – has gone the way of the Dodo.

So if this is good news, I would really hate to see a tragedy.

And what really annoys me is that one part of Government is talking about limiting immigration, another part is making positive noises about ICT use and abuse while another part is selling us down the river. Well thanks, guys, great job.

And let’s be clear here. I have absolutely no problem with India or the Indians and never have done. I have no objection to skilled people coming into the country and benefiting us as a whole. I don’t even have a problem with the ICT system, which allows the simple transfer of key staff for shot term purposes.

But I do have a problem with our government doing all they can to close down the industry I’ve been working in for the last 35 years.

Someone has got this badly wrong. And I don’t think it’s me…

Alan Watts can found at LinkedIn.
© 2010 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

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