Frank Spencer in the BBC sit-com is described on Wikipedia
as a “well-meaning and optimistic, but naive, clueless, accident-prone tank top-wearing character”. Apart from the tank-top wearing part, this description could very well be used to describe our Department of Transport – and in particular when it comes to their handling of the M50 tolling on the West Link toll bridge.
After the expensive decision to get rid of NTR (for what reason – certainly not to benefit consumers), we now appear to be moving to the next illfounded decision through the Departments selection of Payzone as the new operators of the barrier free tolling
In a scenario that has uncomfortably similar overtones to what happened the suppliers of the infamous PPARS system for the health service (iSoft), it appears that the board and chairman of Payzone are attempting to oust the incumbent Chief Executive and Chief Financial Officer of the company. As of yesterday, it took these two company officers court injunctions in order to prevent themselves being kicked out of the company (sub required
According to that article (Cardpoint and Alphyra together make up the Payzone company):
It is understood that Cardpoint had experienced difficult trading in October and
November while Alphyra’s business grew.
Mr Nagle (Chief Executive) is believed to have wanted to issue a trading statement to the stock market in advance of an investor roadshow this week but the board decided against this move.
In January 2006, the iSoft company itself was actually forced to issue profit warnings itelf
, some time after the initial discovery of the difficulties with the PPARS application within the HSE (but not related). The Comptroller and Auditor General, for example, issued its “Value for Money” report in December 2005
So, we’re seeing problems now with the new suppliers of the barrier free tolling of the M50 only days after the contract was announced. Will Payzone follow the path of iSoft – since that initial profit warning, iSoft virtually imploded after it was forced to change its accountancy practices
It had to adjust the accounts for earlier years plunging the company into a
£344m loss for the year ended April 2006. An internal investigation identified
accounting irregularities in 2004 and 2005.
The iSoft company was eventually taken over in June
of last year in an attempt to put all it’s problems behind it, including an investigation of it’s accountancy practices by the UK Financial Regulator, the Financial Services Authority.
Last night, by coincidence, I was speaking to the representative of a relatively small international software supplier who bemoaned the fact that despite the fact that they provided what has been universally acknowledged as a superior product compared to their competitors, the small size of his company prevented them from getting larger contracts with large financial and government organisations.
Their difficulty was that becase it was a part of due dilligence prior to signing software provision contracts that these larger organisations will assess the software company balance sheet, future prospects, ongoing performance, business continuity, and many other items to get an idea of the software company. In many cases, smaller software suppliers will not come out well in such analyses compared to larger more established ones. In some cases this may be justified, and others it may not.
However, given what’s happened/happening with two software suppliers selected by Irish govermental departments in the past few years, one wonders what kind of due dilligence they’re carrying out at all to ensure that our money isn’t wasted on these high profile and expensive projects.