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TG questions eServices ‘shambles’, drawing stern response from Govt

Together Gibraltar and the Gibraltar Government have clashed on the costs and the roll out of the eGovernment services, after TG claimed the Government had spent £13.4m over a period of three and a half years but delivered just one fully developed eService.

TG described the system as a “shambles”, adding that it is a “paradigmatic example of lack of transparency and accountability.”

But the Government hit back and said Together Gibraltar had displayed a “total lack of understanding of the work involved in the delivering of these services” and a “complete inability to comprehend the detailed information provided”, adding the figure spent on eServices was £4.9m.

TG first questioned Mr Isola on eServices during a session in Parliament last May when party leader Marlene Hassan Nahon asked for a breakdown of general costs, including licencing costs associated with the eGovernment platform, and how much was awarded to companies like Dell and Deloitte.

During the session, Ms Hassan Nahon asked Mr Isola if he “was satisfied” that the eGovernment platform was “value for money.”

“If you ask me if this journey has been worth having been on, then absolutely yes,” Mr Isola said in his reply.

Mr Isola provided a list of payments made by the government but told the House it was “not possible” to give a breakdown of general costs for eServices as this included all the hardware, software, security, maintenance, and licensing costs.

But in a statement this week, Together Gibraltar said these statements were a “smoke screen”, adding that Mr Isola “presented accounts that fused together real eService expenses with other recurring IT&LD expenses as a smokescreen to evade proper scrutiny”.

The party said it had extracted the “real eGovernment expenses” from the information provided to Parliament by Mr Isola.

“Deloitte was the company chosen by Government to be the ‘architects’ of their

eGov project,” Together Gibraltar said in the statement.

“The total paid to Deloitte just on consultancy fees is £6.7m, with Deloitte Gibraltar receiving just over £1.4m and Deloitte UK receiving the remaining £5.3m plus - at this stage it is worth noting that the same company that was hired as consultants was then hired to execute the services, which is, if not something worse, terrible business praxis.”

“£6.7m, is already an enormous bill for advice on a small eGov platform, however, if you add up the total of all other the services, consultancies, products etc recommended by Deloitte, the total expenditure rises to over £13.4m.”

“This is the true breakdown of the cost of the Digital Service/eGov project in the last 3.5 years.”

Together Gibraltar said Mr Isola “showed a profound contempt for the role of Parliament as the fundamental tool for the scrutiny of Government”, adding that this “illustrates the problem of accountability in Gibraltar.”

“When opposition parties ask the right questions they never receive proper answers, nor are there consequences for this practice,” the party added.

It said that at present there is only one fully developed eService “that has been developed after 3.5 years and £13.4m”, namely the ETB services.

“The ETB is a full, back-end digital system, an eGovernment platform worthy of its name that can fully process services independently,” Together Gibraltar said.

“However, the rest of the services are, so far, still nowhere near the standard necessary to consider them proper eGov services.”

“They amount to glorified email portals where people can attach and send documents, with civil servants on the other side receiving, downloading, processing and manually inputting data just as they would in a counter.”

“This does not save any labour or time to our civil servants, nor does it provide any

value for money for the Gibraltarian taxpayer.”

“To sum it all up we have £13.4m spent in 3.5 years - as of May, a number that has

surely grown since - in return for one fully operative eGov department [and] that’s not

counting salaries of civil servants dedicated to the project, such as the Chief Officer

for eServices.”

“To top it all off, we have the Minister responsible avoiding responsibility and presenting confusing data to Parliament which does not present a true picture of the reality, to corroborate his arguments.”

“In a democracy worthy of its name, the pressure for Mr Isola to resign would be

simply unbearable.”

Together Gibraltar also said the Government failed to respond to the GGCA’s statement on this issue, given Mr Isola’s dispute brought against him by the GGCA in relation to IT&LD.

In its statement, the union said Mr Isola was “well aware” of the expenses that relate to IT&LD and the expenses that relate to the Ministry for Digital and Financial Services, adding that he had appointed a Chief Officer for eServices himself, who has been the “controlling officer for all expenditure” in relation to the eGovernment platform.

Furthermore, the GGCA at the time said that “much of the eGovernment project was undertaken without and often against IT&LD professional advice and the eGovernment contracts were not managed by IT&LD.”

“When one analyses this lack of response, knowing the penchant of this government

for scathing retorts, one can only assume it should be interpreted as an admission of

guilt,” Together Gibraltar added.

 

GOVT REPLIES

 

But in its response to Together Gibraltar, the Gibraltar Government said Mr Isola had provided Parliament with a “comprehensive and complete answer detailing every penny expended in each of the three years on all digital services, including the cost of all the hardware, software, network and infrastructure on which the eServices project relies and is dependent on.”

A spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said that this is in addition to all the costs of delivering Covid-related services.

The Government spokesman said the hardware, servers and networks are all a part of the delivery of these services.

In response to Together Gibraltar, the Government spokesman said the actual amount spent exclusively on eServices over the past three years was £4.9m and not £13m as “Together Gibraltar erroneously states.”

The rest of the £8.1m was spent on the development of eAdministration, Counter Reduction Services, Security and other services, which it says are all different component parts of “a Digital Government.”

The Government spokesman said it is not just employment services which are available online, but the first phase of the Income Tax service is also available with more services to be added soon.

“Some 20,000 transactions have been carried out online with fees paid to Government from online transactions exceeding £760,000,” the Government spokesman said.

“It is time Together Gibraltar spent a little more time understanding the issues and informing itself better of the reality of what is happening and the incredible work being undertaken by many within the public sector to make this vision a reality.”

“The work engaged in delivering these services impacts on each and every Department and Government is grateful for the dedication and determination of these Departments in continuing to work to deliver more and more services to the public.”

“Government fully expects that within the next 12 months further Departments will be added to the list providing full eServices.”

“These will be welcomed by the entire community.”

For his part, Mr Isola said: “The change from paper to delivery of Digital Services across Government is a challenging and complex one.”

“I have every confidence we will get there and become more efficient as we enable citizens and businesses alike to interact with us from their office or home, very much more easily than at present and at any time.”

“I am extremely grateful to all those that are working so hard with us to make this revolutionary change to our system of administration a reality.”

“Together Gibraltar is clearly not interested in the progress being made but simply playing cheap politics.”

“What a shame.”

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