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UK Taxpayers' Money Getting Wasted On IT Spending

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the dog-bites-man-over-and-over-and-over dept.

Government 174

hypnosec writes "A report combined by MPs has claimed the UK government is spending 'obscene' amounts of taxpayers' money on IT. The Public Administration Select Committee revealed in its report that some government departments have spent £3,500 on a single desktop PC, which can be purchased for as little as £200. Some other examples of the government pouring public money down the drain include buying copier paper for £73 when it can be purchased for £8."

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Ohh, shiny! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919314)

Sounds like someone is buying too many 'shiny' Apple products.

Re:Ohh, shiny! (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919392)

I doubt it. Apple is not on the list of approved suppliers for most UK government departments. In a lot Dell is the only option, and their government price list is insane: at least double their web price for exactly the same equipment. Even if this includes a support contract, it would still be cheaper to buy the cheap version and just throw it in the bin and buy a new one if there's a problem. Spending £3500 on an Apple desktop would mean a 12-core 2.66GHz Xeon - I'm pretty sure you can't get that for £200 elsewhere, since it has two CPUs that retail for over £500 each (although the rest of the specs on that machine are pretty anaemic for the price: only 6GB of RAM and a single 1TB disk? WTF Apple?)

Re:Ohh, shiny! (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919922)

Really? I'm sure I hear of several departments talking about iPads. Or is this just a specific list of suppliers for desktop computers?

Re:Ohh, shiny! (1)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919484)

Sounds like someone is buying too many 'shiny' Apple products.

Although I like a mac as a computer, they are ridiculously expensive...

...but £3,000 plus for a desktop is madness, even if it was apple!

Re:Ohh, shiny! (4, Informative)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919540)

Ah. As others have pointed out, the PC Pro article says :

However, as our report from the 13 May states: “The bottom line might make it look like Cabinet Office workers are all sitting in front of the most ridiculously expensive machines in Britain, but officials played down the figures, saying they covered more than just the hardware. According to a Cabinet Office spokesperson, the “costs cover the core infrastructure and applications – basically anything supplied by a third party’.”

(Read more: “Obscene” Whitehall IT spending or sloppy journalism? | PC Pro blog http://www.pcpro.co.uk/blogs/2011/07/28/obscene-whitehall-it-spending-or-sloppy-journalism/#ixzz1TUbtZD9C [pcpro.co.uk] )

Re:Ohh, shiny! (2)

1s44c (552956) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919652)

Sounds like someone is buying too many 'shiny' Apple products.

Although I like a mac as a computer, they are ridiculously expensive...

...but £3,000 plus for a desktop is madness, even if it was apple!

500 UKP computer.
2450 UKP extra costs incurred by dealing with the UK government's self-serving bureaucracy.
50 UKP delivery.

Re:Ohh, shiny! (1)

Ironhandx (1762146) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919868)

Hey!

Its good to know that its the same back in the UK as it is in other parts of the Empire.

I know a bunch of people in Canada who have made a living buying computers from retail stores and reselling them to government.

In one case I know they were buying corporate cast-offs and refurbishing them and then selling them to government. Computer cost $100, Upgrades to meet government specs: $90. Chargeout price: $1800.

Re:Ohh, shiny! (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36920048)

Sounds about right, similar things happen in the US. When my father in law was in the naval reserve he noticed that there was a specification for ketchup and that when more was received there was associated documentation to ensure that what they actually received was actually ketchup by the official US government specification. I guess some of this has changed in recent years but I gather that a lot of it still happens.

Re:Ohh, shiny! (1)

1s44c (552956) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919634)

Sounds like someone is buying too many 'shiny' Apple products.

Not at all. They are buying windows PCs from approved suppliers. Getting approved requires an almighty mass of paperwork that would crush any normal company. The only companies that will deal with the UK government are experts at government bureaucracy first and IT suppliers second. They know that once they have made it onto the approved list they have very little competition so can charge well over the odds.

Re:Ohh, shiny! (1)

AGMW (594303) | more than 3 years ago | (#36920070)

... They know that once they have made it onto the approved list they have very little competition so can charge well over the odds.

Often, once they are on the list there is no competition! I'm not sure what the Approved Supplier List is supposed to do, but it sure as hell doesn't guarantee price or performance! Strikes me it's just a boondoggle to encourage back handers, 'cos there's precious little else to recommend the practice!

creative accounting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919320)

It probably was only 8 pounds for the paper - the other 65 pounds was re-directed to the MP's pocket (either directly or indirectly.)

Re:creative accounting (1)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919494)

It probably was only 8 pounds for the paper - the other 65 pounds was re-directed to the MP's pocket (either directly or indirectly.)

Well moat cleaning and duck houses are not cheap, you know!

Re:creative accounting (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919512)

Well moat cleaning and duck houses are not cheap, you know!

I didn't know. I have people to keep track of stuff like that for me. Perhaps you're one of my employees?

Re:creative accounting (2)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919552)

Sorry Sir, I'll get back to polishing the silver in a minute, but in case the references were missed...

Moats [bbc.co.uk] Ducks [telegraph.co.uk]

That £3500 PC (3, Informative)

LilBlackKittie (179799) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919326)

About that £3500 PC...

The media reporting this story appear to be doing a good job of ignoring what that £3500 PC actually is: three years of PC, with software licensing, hardware replacement, upgrades, maintenance and support. It's not just the bare metal put on someone's desk but the full service behind it.

If you take the IT budget for a large healthcare public sector organisation and divide it by the number of desktop PCs they support, it'll probably come out at around £1000/year.

Re:That £3500 PC (0)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919368)

About that £3500 PC...

The media reporting this story appear to be doing a good job of ignoring what that £3500 PC actually is: three years of PC, with software licensing, hardware replacement, upgrades, maintenance and support. It's not just the bare metal put on someone's desk but the full service behind it.

If you take the IT budget for a large healthcare public sector organisation and divide it by the number of desktop PCs they support, it'll probably come out at around £1000/year.

Uh, yeah, the key word in your rebuttal here being "healthcare", which tends to mean "profitable", which is a hell of a lot more than can be said for 99.999% of government organizations worldwide. I guarantee you that healthcare orgs can afford that kind of (wasteful) spending a lot easier than any government can, although the reasons behind that affordability can be just as concerning as government spending, since it's pretty much the "customer" footing the bill in either case.

Re:That £3500 PC (2)

LilBlackKittie (179799) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919384)

Healthcare? Profitable? I worked for the National Health Service for four years. It most definitely has its fair share of wastage. But the NHS — being state-owned and state-provided healthcare — is certainly not "profitable"

Re:That £3500 PC (1)

OliWarner (1529079) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919400)

I think you're confused. The vast majority of healthcare here (in the UK - what this is talking about) is government-run and government funded.

Re:That £3500 PC (2)

LilBlackKittie (179799) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919418)

It's a lot more complicated than that: GP Practices are often private partnership businesses (between a bunch of GPs) and most definitely are run "for profit" in the sense that they have to bid for work from the healthcare commissioners (mostly this used to be the PCTs, now it's mostly the regional StHAs, etc). And the NHS does farm out some work to private hospitals to meet its waiting-list targets (and also under the banner of "Choice" that the Blairite government brought in)... ...but yes: the vast, vast majority (approx £1000/bed/day that it costs to run a hospital) is state-owned, state-run, taxpayer-funded.

Re:That £3500 PC (1)

ABCC (861543) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919678)

In the UK healthcare is run by the National Health Servce, a large public sector organisation as the OP pointed out. In other words, not an organisation in the "profitable" sector of the economy. Perhaps they're better on budget control, or atleast slightly more professional than a local council.

Re:That £3500 PC (2)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919376)

A fair point, but the fact they were overpaying by a factor of nine for the copier paper too, which I'm assuming didn't come with a support contract or licensing, seems to imply there was still significant waste going on.

Re:That £3500 PC (1)

LilBlackKittie (179799) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919398)

I agree there is significant waste, yes. But removing the context of something for a snappy headline — misrepresenting something to get a soundbite — is bad journalism. Geeks expect better!

Re:That £3500 PC (0)

goldspider (445116) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919912)

Welcome to Slashdot! I'm Goldspider!

Re:That £3500 PC (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919614)

The example of the £3500 PC has no details this specific example is only mentioned in the summary ..

The report does not mention Copier Paper at all ....? (I searched it ...)

Re:That £3500 PC (1)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919760)

I looked for the desktop PC prices, too - nothing within the 20 or so pages except the executive summery. but I didn't checked all of the references, most likely the source for the claim.

Re:That £3500 PC (2)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919648)

My guess is they've got a contract with a printer company that basically gives them the printer, all the paper and the toner they need over the lifetime of the machine and a number to call which will get an engineer out guaranteed in 8 hours, no matter where the printer is in the country. Typically with such contracts you never own the printer - you pay a fixed price per page and when the printer reaches the end of its useful life the printer company will either charge you to dispose of it or give it to you to dispose of how you wish.

Even then, however, £73 a ream sounds absurd. That comes out at 14p/page, which the last time I looked was about eight or ten times what you should be paying for such a contract on a black & white laser printer. Hell, it's pretty silly for a colour laser printer.

I agree. Disclaimer: I'm involved (3, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919752)

I consult in this area. I have to tell you that where the NHS and local authorities are concerned, printing is a very competitive business and only efficient suppliers make a go of it. (The contracts you describe are, however, going out of date.)
In fact, the worst cost offenders in both areas are not the IT/facilities providers and the supply companies; they are the end users who buy inkjets and run them on petty cash.

My own GP is very clued up in this area and keeps a close watch on the local trust to see if they are getting good value for money. Generally speaking, they do. In fact, compared to privatised healthcare in the US, the NHS is amazingly efficient and low cost - which is why we have very similar life expectancy adjusted for social class, but we only spend half as much of our GDP as does the US - and our GDP per head is lower to begin with.

Re:That £3500 PC (1)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919826)

If it helps, my support contract for a number of printers and digital photocopiers is 1p/page, and this includes all toner, paper, less than 12 hour call out, all parts and labour do not cost anything. We do have to pay half the cost of a new printer. We only do about 500 pages a week on all printers.

Re:That £3500 PC (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919748)

A fair point, but the fact they were overpaying by a factor of nine for the copier paper too, which I'm assuming didn't come with a support contract or licensing, seems to imply there was still significant waste going on.

That is assuming that it is true. Has anyone been able to find where it mentions copier paper for £73? I did a quick search of the report and found no mention of this example.

I wanted to see just what kind of paper you would get for this much money. A quick search of the net found a real-world example [mayfairstationers.co.uk] . I can't think of a reason why anyone in government would need parchment paper, but was this the kind of thing being purchased? If it was a specialty paper then the comparison to the £8 variety might not be valid.

Re:That £3500 PC (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36920110)

It was probably copier paper that met the government's official standard for what copier paper is and had all the associated documentation signed in triplicate demonstrating that it was in fact government approved copier paper of the correct weight, brightness, texture, and flavor from an approved copier paper vendor who probably spend months or years jumping though hoop to become a certified copier paper vendor (or was related to someone in government).

Re:That £3500 PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919488)

£1000 is still a couple pence shy of £3500, aint it??

Re:That £3500 PC (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919576)

hmm a 500 PC + 3 years of support/licenses at 1000/year, ohh look, 3500... math is hard.

Re:That £3500 PC (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919616)

I'd really like to know where this £200 ($325 USD) desktop PC is that they're talking about. Are they suggesting the government should be stocked with Walmart E-Machines? Hell, the OS license would cost a third of it.

Re:That £3500 PC (1)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919804)

a HP 500B microtower is around 200EUR without VAT. not the fastest machine but usable for office stuff.

Re:That £3500 PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919776)

£3500 isn't enough to buy Visual Studio Ultimate [microsoftstore.com] (or Premium).

Re:That £3500 PC (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919818)

Still a pretty good deal the company has gotten here. Considering the average office PC costs about 500 bucks, even if they needed two complete PCs per year they'd come out ahead.

May I offer at the same condition? I can supply that, no worries!

Re:That £3500 PC (1)

Idimmu Xul (204345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919988)

Our small office uses Macs, not taking in to account application costs, over the 3 year lifetime I've had this MacBook, it's had £40 of new RAM added to it.

My previous employer of about 30 had Shuttles running Ubuntu or WinXP, one of which got replaced a year on average, typically due to the PSU blowing up.

The employer before that had Dells, with warranty, I think we had 1 failure over a 2 year period.

Each place had a systems team that dealt with user infrastructure as a *part* of their job, after purchase in no way did it cost anywhere near £1000/year per machine for maintenance/management, if it had I'm pretty sure any small business would go under quite quickly.

When I was working desktop support less than 5% was actual hardware support, the rest was user support and using these maths that means I should have been getting well over a 7 figure salary.

Capital & depreciation vs. expense budgets (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#36920086)

Meh, it's similar in the US gov't & defense contracting sector, mostly for tax reasons.

For a largish contractor, if a PC is purchased for under $3000-$5000, it comes out of the expense budget, which tends to be relatively low year to year. If it's over that amount, it can come out of the much larger capital budget, which tends to be much bigger, and the company can take tax breaks for depreciation of that equipment over 3-5 years. So to the bean counters, it's much more desirable to have stuff come out of the capital budget, even if they are 3-10x overpriced. It also goes on the books as something that makes the company look like it has "capital resources", instead of sinking money into "expenses".

It's been funny to see computers overspec'd to cost $3k-$5k... usually through some combination of overpriced nVidia Quadro GPU (which can get up into the $1000s, but at least you can still buy the same outdated model number for a couple of years), 12-32GB+ RAM in 32-bit systems, RAID adapters that are never configured or used, loaded up with extra disks that might get pulled and stored in a pile elsewhere so they don't have to be bought individually separately (and often for cheaper when not bundled with an OEM's equipment build).

The other magic number is something like $200,000 for a single purchase or system of computers, so you'll see lots of the big iron companies dish out a rackfull of product for about that amount, like EMC storage etc. when there's stuff like NetApp that does the same thing for maybe 10% of the cost. So if the IT department can plan ahead enough, they can make a large purchase of cheap PCs for over $200k and still depreciate them, which is why the desktop/laptop you actually get to use is still a piece of crap. But the computers that can't be planned and spec'd a year in advance get to cost way more.

Tell me something I didn't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919332)

My father works for a logistics company who handle a lot of government computer stuff: everything from moving an entire data centre to a single printer. I've seen the stuff that they dispose of: desktops that are less than a year old, entire racks of hardware that has never been used, and even printers and monitors that are brand new, still in the box. This is stuff that has been bought with tax money and then is being chucked out without ever being used.

That's just the stuff I've seen moving through one small company. The scale of waste UK-wide must be massive.

Re:Tell me something I didn't know (1)

phonewebcam (446772) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919480)

The outsourcers are evil. Pick any of the 3-letter acronym usual suspects and there's a great chance it's the one I personally know charged £8000 to write 1 line of SQL.

Re:Tell me something I didn't know (1)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919564)

The outsourcers are evil. Pick any of the 3-letter acronym usual suspects and there's a great chance it's the one I personally know charged £8000 to write 1 line of SQL.

Was it a really, really long nested query? :)

Then again, the mechanic isn't paid because he has a hammer, but because he know where to hit...

Re:Tell me something I didn't know (1)

hughbar (579555) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919756)

Yes, do so agree, at London borough [district probably in the US] level, perfectly adequate PCs are 'refreshed'/dumped because 'they' don't know how to manage viruses, huge roaming profiles etc. etc. the next-door borough nearly went to Linux and then backed away. Without being an open-source nut, this would certainly be a healthy part of a solution. We already believe in 'mixed' economy don't we, so this isn't much of a reach.

What's been missed is ... (5, Insightful)

amw (636271) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919350)

... that this £3,500 doesn't just cover "hardware sitting on a person's desk"; it also includes the software, support, long-term upgrade contracts, etc. This "journalism" sells newspapers (unsurprisingly, the Daily Mail featured it quite prominently) but ignores most of the facts.

I'm not denying that some money is being wasted, but nowhere near as much as this report implies. See this article [pcpro.co.uk] for more detail.

Re:What's been missed is ... (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919420)

The argument can be made that it is much cheaper to buy a $200 PC and throw it in the trash every 3 months than buy a $500 one with "3 year support".

The sad truth is the support that comes with most PCs and software is usually under-utilized and seldom needed.

Re:What's been missed is ... (2)

amw (636271) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919508)

The sad truth is the support that comes with most PCs and software is usually under-utilized and seldom needed.

In this case, "support" is likely to be the infrastructure team within the organisation itself who handle the repairs, upgrades, security updates, server maintenance, etc. It's not going to be the telephone helpline that tells you where to plug your mouse into or what your ISPs telephone number is.

The main problem is that, like all the other numbers, the £3,500 figure is unexplained. For all we know, it's "total amount that the IT department spend" divided by "number of users". That would mean it also includes a proportion of the costs of the servers, switches, cabling, telecommunications, etc.

Re:What's been missed is ... (1)

e3m4n (947977) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919700)

having worked in a few environments that manufacture good for the government here in the US, I realized nothing will ever be as cheap as over the counter. For example, take a $14 toilet seat. The government isn't content buying a $14 toilet seat from a retail outlet. They pass on paperwork requirements to their contract suppliers, a whole trunkload of paperwork. Suddenly they want every part serialized, tracked, accounted for. When its all said and done you've had to hire another 20 - 30 employees just to handle a simple $14 toilet seat. This, in part, is why sometimes toilet seats that you would see for $14 are now purchased for $90 or even $200. The government also needs to do its contribution to waste fraud and abuse. They can't leave the entire burden up to the vendor because the government half is still full of waste. I am not implying fraud does not or will not occur, but its less frequent than the prices alone indicate. Its more of a case of waste than anything. Add to that the senators being able to suddenly tout all these extra jobs they help 'create' and you have a recipe for this sort of thing all over.

Re:What's been missed is ... (1)

dunezone (899268) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919762)

The argument can be made that it is much cheaper to buy a $200 PC and throw it in the trash every 3 months than buy a $500 one with "3 year support"

Not really. It would be an IT nightmare to replace a PC every 3 months especially in a large organization. When a machine is replaced you cant just replace the box when it arrives from the manufacture. You need to image the HD to the organizations need which means every 3 months a new image will need to be created, tested, and put into play. Any custom network configuration or software will need to be installed. Any form of data that is stored locally will need to be moved. Users will experience downtime for the turn around on hardware. And then you need to dispose of the older hardware in a secure manner.

Re:What's been missed is ... (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919888)

The argument can be made that it is much cheaper to buy a $200 PC and throw it in the trash every 3 months than buy a $500 one with "3 year support".

The sad truth is the support that comes with most PCs and software is usually under-utilized and seldom needed.

You still need people to decide at what point the $200 should be thrown away, you still need people to setup and install the new PC, you still need people to temporarily install a PC if any repairs are done, and so on, and so on. It's not like buying a calculator, you can't just leave it up to users to maintain their networked PC.

Re:What's been missed is ... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919424)

Desktops are effectively disposable these days. Buy a new one for £200 every year - or just by twice as many as you need and replace the ones that fail over three years and it's still only about £400 for the three years. Long term upgrade contracts? Just buy a new machine when those fail - you can give the old ones to schools that are still using decade old computer labs. Software? Most of these machines are going to be running Windows, Office, and some department-specific custom software. The custom software, however, does not come out of this part of the budget. The rest of the software should be on a site license, so there's no licensing churn when you replace a machine, you just transfer the license.

Re:What's been missed is ... (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919588)

and what about copies of software? a site wide business license of windows/exchange/office? I'm sure there are some more apps in there as well. Hell AutocadLT is around $400-$600 a seat per year, and you have to buy every year, because someone in the chain will upgrade, and then you can't open the files.

Re:What's been missed is ... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919708)

But most users have nothing but an office suite, so using OSS you could reduce the software cost to $0... for those users. $3500 is beyond steep for an average.

Re:What's been missed is ... (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919924)

But most users have nothing but an office suite, so using OSS you could reduce the software cost to $0... .

So you then have to retrain everybody on the OSS office suite, you still have to have hardware and software support of some kind...

Re:What's been missed is ... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36920028)

Okay, now go back and read my post, and then reply. I know it was an entire paragraph, which is quite a lot to read at one sitting, so I'll quote the relevant part for you:

Software? Most of these machines are going to be running Windows, Office, and some department-specific custom software. The custom software, however, does not come out of this part of the budget

Re:What's been missed is ... (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919770)

The problem here is that the article is seeking to overspecialization something that that really seems like an issue. For instance, I'm fairly certain you can't get a professional office desktop for 200 pounds in the UK. I know you can't get one here for anything like $350 (which would be the approximate translation), and I doubt the UK is overflowing with excessively cheap hardware. You can get a computer for that, but not one you'd want. We're also given no context. I work for a US government facility. On my desk is a decent office class computer that we spent about $1200 on. Like the UK government we buy our computers with full on, bells and whistles support. I could probably get this same system for about $600 on the open market, but we're paying for support and all which roughly doubles the price. So UK prices we're probably looking, what, 700 or 800 pounds (sorry I can't remember how to make the pound symbol)?

Now, upstairs some of my users are tapping away on full workstation class machines : Dual quad core i5s, 24 GB of RAM, Nvidia Quatro cards, etc. Those things are nearly $10K a piece (again with full support). They use those systems for modeling, simulation, and analysis, so they're justified. So, if 3500 pounds is a normal office PC than your government is wasting a LOT of money. Even with all the bells and whistles support they could get those for a third of what they're paying. If the newspaper hunted around until they found some engineer's tricked out CAD machine then presented that as if it were "normal" then there's probably no issue.

Re:What's been missed is ... (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919784)

Whoops! Spell check is not my friend: overspecialization = over sensationalize. I don't even know how it thought those were close. Clearly I need more coffee.

desktop PC with or without licences? (1)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919362)

the summary [parliament.uk] mentions the £3.5k, but with a slightly different context than TFS.

Given the cuts that they are having to make in response to the fiscal deficit it is ridiculous that some departments spend an average of £3,500 on a desktop PC.

is this with or without software? add a Citrix licence, SAP access, some security token with a user licence, MS Office, AD user access licence, ... and it is at least thinkable that one workstation is expensive as hell.

Re:desktop PC with or without licences? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919454)

Why the F do they need Citrix, EVER? What does Citrix do that couldn't be made simpler, cheaper, faster, more robust, and more secure by just not using Citrix...

Re:desktop PC with or without licences? (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919674)

Why the F do they need Citrix, EVER? What does Citrix do that couldn't be made simpler, cheaper, faster, more robust, and more secure by just not using Citrix...

That's an extremely good question when you consider that Microsoft Windows Server licensing explicitly says that any form of remote desktop you make available for general purpose use, you buy Terminal Server licenses. Even if you're not actually planning to use Terminal Server to deliver that remote desktop solution, you still buy the licenses.

Eh... (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919374)

While I have no doubt that some departments are letting themselves get raked over the coals(or taking kickbacks, better check on that), and that someonebody has been seriously drinking the kool-aid when it comes to the 'efficiency' of contracting everything, I am annoyed by the example being cherry picked:

A £200 computer is, what, the low-end consumer model on the shelf at limey-Best-Buy? Oh, that'll make perfect sense as part of an enterprise IT system, once we've quadrupled the RAM, upgraded the OS to something that will bind to AD, factored in the cost of Office and whatever horrid application specific cruftware holds the department together, and doubled up on screwdriver monkeys because the hardware that gets thrown into that model changes only slightly less often than the serial number does...

Re:Eh... (1)

zero0ne (1309517) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919402)

Don't forget another manager to crack the whip when those two monkeys aren't doing their job!

Re:Eh... (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919428)

As I said further up, the far more damning thing is what they were spending on copy paper - you're quite right to say that many factors influence the total cost of a PC, and while I'm inclined to think they probably were getting ripped off, a comparison to a £200 piece of crap as made in the summary is disingenuous. Plain white office paper is a pretty standard commodity, though, and they were still paying nine times over the odds for it, which doesn't speak too well of their purchasing procedures in general, and casts significant doubt on whether the £3,500 desktops were worth it, support contract or not.

Re:Eh... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919500)

Yeah, I have no doubt that they either can't manage their contractors or that they have an incentive to mismanage them. Getting shafted on commodities is a bad sign.

I think that I'm mostly just annoyed because I had to have the "Yes, there is a reason that isn't 'waste and my incompetence' why a gigabyte of space on the versioned, offsite-replicated, battery-backed, redundant-PSUed, tape-backuped, SAN costs rather more than a gigabyte of space on your USB external hard drive..." chat with somebody the other day...

It seems like peoples' non-understanding falls into one of two categories: Either their eyes glaze over when the salesweasel tells them that this computer is no mere computer; but a 'managed enterprise computer with industry-leading TCO' and they sign on the dotted line, or they fall into the "a computer's a computer, how did you spend more than $ON_SALE_AT_BEST_BUY?"

Re:Eh... (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919690)

I think that I'm mostly just annoyed because I had to have the "Yes, there is a reason that isn't 'waste and my incompetence' why a gigabyte of space on the versioned, offsite-replicated, battery-backed, redundant-PSUed, tape-backuped, SAN costs rather more than a gigabyte of space on your USB external hard drive..." chat with somebody the other day...

We've all had that conversation. Usually by the time you've explained all the bits that make it ten or fifteen times dearer per gigabyte, they've decided some time ago "I don't understand, and any time someone tries to blind me with science I assume they're ripping me off".

Re:Eh... (2)

zero0ne (1309517) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919506)

How do you know that price wasn't the sum of all their paper needs? (card stock / projector screens / ink / toner / service contract / etc)

I bet there are companies that will give you a almost-free enterprise copier/printer with the contract stating that you must purchase all products through them.

I am NOT disagreeing with you in that it is wasteful, just saying that if the source is already hiding information regarding the PC "price", they are probably doing the same for the paper "costs"

Re:Eh... (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919612)

hmm copier paper at a govt place may just be water marked, heavy paper, delivered in armored car and such. I could see how that would cost 73 UK pounds a ream. No where does it say what sort of copier paper it is nor does it mention any of the things that could influence the price of the "computer".

Re:Eh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919618)

Eh.. I work for a large IT organization, and all the new programmers are getting these [newegg.com] ... Well almost... Ours don't have the luxury of 2 gig of ram...

And you know what.. that's actually plenty for the client machines. The bottleneck is the servers and network speed. A lot of data has to move over the network because the clients aren't thin....

That $200 Best Buy special? It's plenty beefy enough to run most workstations' applications these days. Maybe display, keyboard and mouse, support contracts and software licenses make up the difference, but $5600 worth of equipment for a single workstation purchased in 2010 or 2011 sounds awfully high to me, unless it's a specialized workstation used for something like high resolution 3D medical imaging or drafting or something.

An average of 3500, including all the paper-pusher PCs? That makes no sense. It's almost like someone set the budget back in 1996 and never reviewed it....

Re:Eh... (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919670)

This is a government report that seems to be based on a Computer magazines reporting of another government report! - As reported by a Newspaper ...

Government Report : Government and IT – “A Recipe For Rip-Offs”: Time For A New Approach
is based on
Report from PC Pro Magazine
is based on
Cabinet Office’s Business Plan 2011-2015

According to a Cabinet Office spokesperson, the costs cover the core infrastructure and applications – basically anything supplied by a third party, In other words, that £3,664 covers much more than the raw PC hardware: it includes installation, warranty cover, software licencing, etc

Note: None of the reports or articles actually mention Copier Paper at all except the last Daily Mail article?

Re:Eh... (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919954)

None of the reports or articles actually mention Copier Paper at all except the last Daily Mail article?

Thus leading one to the startling conclusion that the Daily Fail might be completely and utterly full of shit

toilet seat (1)

garlicbready (846542) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919390)

It's just the hidden extra terrestrial tax

You don't actually think they spend $20,000.00 on a hammer, $30,000.00 on a toilet seat do you?

It's not "wasted" (2)

X.25 (255792) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919414)

It is "stolen". Usual scheme, where cronies get to charge insane amounts of money for something, then split the cash with person who set the deal up.

Re:It's not "wasted" (1)

phonewebcam (446772) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919526)

You got it - except there are also layers of this between the guy doing the grunt work and the ultimate bill payer. True story - a few years ago I contracted at what I considered a decent hourly rate for a year via an agency to a UK gov dept. At my leaving drink, there happened to be another leaving party from the same organisation at the next table, except these were accountants (I was software dev). When I started chatting and my name came up, the girl immediately said "well with you gone that's £160/hr we'll be saving". Freaking what??? I saw a quarter of that. Together we then counted 3 layers of wasteful outsourcers pointlessly outsourcing to other outsourcers, well pointless unless you count the margin each had been adding for a year.

Re:It's not "wasted" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919874)

I had similar experience at Deutsche Bank about 10 years ago---apparently (as I've found out much later) they were paying $240/hour (US) for my time to this outfit that paid me $50/hour. There's no way such a deal could've been setup without someone getting some kickback somewhere.

going around (1)

kennethmci (1472923) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919498)

isnt this money just going around the system anyway? so yes, it maybe seen that the government spend OUR tax money on things they could get cheaper.. but at the end of the day, public sector is encouraged to puchase from local suppliers. arent we then talking about local suppliers receiving tax payers money for goods and services, which in turn creates jobs and wealth? if they cut back and spend less, doesnt this create new problems?

Re:going around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919546)

Check the report. 80% of IT contracts go to only 18 suppliers, including HP & Fujitsu. It's wealth concentration into the hands of a few companies, how much is expatriated to shareholders instead of going towards the local economy?

Re:going around (1)

e3m4n (947977) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919786)

as long as the money stays within your country then yes it helps circulate currency. The real danger would be if a large portion of those overpriced goods were being diverted to other countries; then it becomes a trade deficit. You definitely don't want some contract where things are being purchased well above their value be linked to a company out of... take India for example. As politically incorrect as it may sound, the idea is to sell more stuff to other countries than you buy from them. This is one of the issues we have in the US with immigration, even though no one wants to view it in purely economic terms. When someone living in the US, often not legally, claims a ridiculous amount of dependent exemptions on their withholding for (W-4) they pay very little toward government taxes (knowing they wont be filing for a return anyway) and then sends 90% of their paycheck back to their families via Western Union; this amounts to a trade deficit. Right now we have a 10 billion dollar annual trade deficit from this situation. As long as your spending stays 'in house' completely, you are not affecting your countries overall wealth, only selectively redistributing it via sales contracts.

7/4/2011 (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919516)

You don't actually think they spend $20,000.00 on a hammer, $30,000.00 on a toilet seat do you?

Re:7/4/2011 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919718)

You don't actually think they spend $20,000.00 on a hammer, $30,000.00 on a toilet seat do you?

The West Wing said it best: [westwingtranscripts.com]

DONNA
$500 screwdrivers is why you didn't vote for the President?

JACK
I work for the President. That's a lot.

DONNA
It's wasteful spending.

JACK
No, it's not.

DONNA
A $400 ashtray?

Jack picks up a wrench and smashes an ashtray that's on his desk. It breaks into three large chunks.

DONNA
What was that?

JACK
A $400 ashtray. It's off the U.S.S. Greenville, a nuclear attack submarine and a likely target for a torpedo. When you get hit with one, you've got enough problems without glass flying into the eyes of the navigator and the Officer of the Deck. This one's built to break into three dull pieces. We lead a slightly different life out there and it costs a little more money.

DONNA
I can't believe you broke a $400 ashtray.

JACK
Yeah, I wish I hadn't done that. It's... 'cause you're blonde.

This is dramatized, of course. Most submarines don't allow smoking except in certain designated areas where you're unlikely to start a fire. (On the one I visited, the one smoking area was at the very tail end of the ship, after the turbines.)

But, if you factor in everything such as transportation and fuel costs, I would not be surprised if it cost $30k to get a toilet seat to Afghanistan. Especially since you'd need to ship two or three, separately, since there's no guarantee one will make it all the way.

Also, regarding hammers: hammers that are built of non-iron metals, so they don't spark, are quite useful in the military but not so much to civilians, so the market's a lot smaller and the price goes up there as well. And if there's only one company making those hammers, and they're located in a district with a powerful Representative or Senator, then they can charge whatever they want and get away with it.

Re:7/4/2011 (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#36920008)

Most submarines don't allow smoking except in certain designated areas where you're unlikely to start a fire. (On the one I visited, the one smoking area was at the very tail end of the ship, after the turbines.)

As a submarine is a workplace for sailors, in the UK the only place you could smoke would be outside.

Long track record of failed government IT projects (1)

pjc50 (161200) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919522)

Ten years ago I was being taught about the attempt to upgrade the London Ambulance Service's systems, as a notorious failure and how it could be avoided. The government has not learned: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/07/01/auditor_says_firecontrol_a_disaster/ [theregister.co.uk]

Re:Long track record of failed government IT proje (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919950)

This has nothing to do with LASCAD. The failure there was that public services were required to award the contract to the lowest bidder, meaning when an inexperienced software house offered a more comprehensive system for several million less than the nearest competitor they weren't allowed to ask questions. Fourteen people needed to die before they changed that policy.

The accused failure here is unnecessary over spending, though it appears on even a surface glance to actually be merely poor journalism (see every other comment anyone has posted on this story).

I'm shocked... (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919530)

shocked, I tell you, that people would spend money that's not their own so freely.

Re:I'm shocked... (1)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919720)

that's how you stimulate the economy.

Re:I'm shocked... (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919966)

Oh, it's by design. They're simply Keynesians.

You're all too civilised for all of this (1)

elsJake (1129889) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919586)

Let me break it down , there's two possible reasons.
One , as other readers have suggested , the article might be purposely omitting various facts or mixing up total cost of ownership with purchase value.
Two , it's not that the buyers were stupid , they might be to some extent (not knowing the market well enough to shop around for the best deal) but that doesn't cover such a deep discrepancy.
Most often than not , at least in the ex soviet block , these things are done to take money away from the institution. The buyers just agree with the sellers to up the cost dramatically and get a part of that money back as incentive to do it. And these things happen ALL THE TIME , in all corners of all public institutions. That's why these states are doing so poorly , budget wise. It's called corruption.
This may come as a shocker to you if you were brought up in some place where these are not common day activities. Criminal penalties should be enforced against such wrongdoers.
I can not emphasise enough , this is the kind of stuff that brings a nation down , one expensive toilet seat at a time.

£3,500 desktops (1)

cerealito (814622) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919646)

some government departments have spent £3,500 on a single desktop PC, which can be purchased for as little as £200.

So they're using iMacs ?

One word ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919722)

Open source. Or is the solution far more complex?

Re:One word ... (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#36920026)

Open source.

Er, that's two words.

So, two words...open source and freedom.

Unnecessary letters (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919732)

Also think of how much money they waste in paper and toner because brits refuse to use proper English spelling:

i.e.

-our vs -or
colour instead of color

-ae- vs -e-
haemorrhage vs hemorrhage

-gramme vs -gram
programme instead of program

or others such as aluminium instead of aluminum.

etc

Re:Unnecessary letters (1)

Catnaps (2044938) | more than 3 years ago | (#36920004)

If you're going to troll, at least put a little effort into it. That didn't even raise an eyebrow.

Re:Unnecessary letters (0)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#36920042)

At least we don't elect retarded cowboys as the supreme head of our executive branch of government.

In spite of the Whitewash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919750)

In spite of the Whitewash, it IS/WAS huge incompetence/negligence and I do not doubt that it is all true if not understated.

If you providevide ways to game the system, either through one of the standard mechanisms [hideously complicated process, unrelated mandates, vapid technical or financial rules eg "lowest bidder wins"] you open two doors to corruption for each you purport to close. Lack if internal un-corruptible strategic vision and management and failure to take account of previous history has made UK IT procurement a joke since the days of the Computer Board and HMSO' procurement unit of the 1970s.

IT and Defence procurement has been against the public interest and the uniformed military interest for decades, eg sthe SA80 rifle (joak).

Until Tyburn is reopened this will go on, gaming and bribes are too easy, corruption too easy to pass off as bad luck or incompetance and the risk/penalty FAR too low.

MPs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36919806)

I keep hearing reference to MPs but I have no idea what that means. Can somebody enlighten me?

Re:MPs? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 3 years ago | (#36920098)

Member of Parliment (sort of like a Senator/Representative in the UK)

It could be worse... (1)

Froeschle (943753) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919810)

Better for tax money to go to frivolous IT spending than have it wasted on senseless wars.

It is system design and infrastructure (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919822)

The MP Geoffrey Bacon has been working on this for years. It is simply untrue that MPs are getting kickbacks as suggested above; UK political corruption is minute compared to US corruption because we don't have budget riders to Bills. And in any case much of our corruption is exported from the United States, isn't it, Rupert, Donald and co.?

The main areas of waste are simply large infrastructure projects that are badly designed by unqualified Civil Servants with unrealistic and underspecified objectives, which are then divided up among too many contractors with too many legal interfaces between them, and then have to be repeatedly redesigned and reimplemented as the scope changes. It is like our national habit of building motorways that are too small, and then having to pay more to widen them than the original building cost.

The cost of PCs and support is utterly irrelevant in this. It is the way in which, say, it can cost nearly £30000 in legal fees just to have one contractor run a wire between two boxes operated by different contractors, because the scope of contracts has to be changed.

The answer is a radical reform of the Civil Service to ensure that anybody involved in an infrastructure project is actually qualified in the right areas, rather than having graduated from Oxford with a classics degree thirty years ago. But every attempt to reform the Civil Service is handled internally - good luck with that.

Re:It is system design and infrastructure (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919958)

UK political corruption is minute compared to US corruption

I don't know the comparative numbers but in the UK we hardly [guardian.co.uk] have [guardian.co.uk] spotless [bbc.co.uk] record [dailymail.co.uk] .

You don't read the US papers, do you? (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36920114)

US politicians are more or less allowed to buy influence and votes by adding riders to Bills which entail spending in their districts. The amounts of money involved are really quite eye-watering. In fact, the use of Government spending for pork barrel is one of the factors in the current standoff - the Republicans are demanding spending cuts for things they don't like while continuing to send pork-barrel bills for approval.

Although the money doesn't go directly to the politicians, some of it often ends up indirectly benefiting them or their relatives.

I am not excusing what British MPs were up to - but by world standards, and US standards, they weren't even trying.

Well its not like the money not spent on IT (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#36919928)

Well its not like the money not spent on IT all goes to good use.

Oblig Independance Day quote... (1)

Syberz (1170343) | more than 3 years ago | (#36920056)

President Thomas Whitmore: I don't understand, where does all this come from? How do you get funding for something like this?

Julius Levinson: You don't actually think they spend $20,000.00 on a hammer, $30,000.00 on a toilet seat do you?

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