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Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2008/2009

Date: 01 July 2009

COMMITTEE FOR FINANCE AND PERSONNEL

OFFICIAL REPORT
(Hansard)

HR Connect

1 July 2009

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:

Mr Mitchel McLaughlin (Chairperson)
Mr Simon Hamilton (Deputy Chairperson) 
Dr Stephen Farry 
Mr Adrian McQuillan
Mr Declan O’Loan
Mr Peter Weir

Witnesses:

Mr Derek Baker ) 
Ms Patricia Corbett ) Department of Finance and Personnel 
Mr Tommy O’Reilly )

The Chairperson (Mr McLaughlin)

We are joined by Derek Baker, director of personnel; Patricia Corbett, HR Connect service management director; and Tommy O’Reilly, e-HR programme director. The name plates in front of the witnesses are being changed as we speak.

Dr Farry:

We had worked it out, anyway. [Laughter.]

The Chairperson:

He is very useful, very helpful.

I remind members that the session is being recorded for Hansard, and mobile phones need to be turned off completely as they interfere with the electronics.

Derek, before we come to the issue of HR Connect, is there any update on the terms of reference for the review of senior civil servants’ pay and bonuses?

Mr Derek Baker (Department of Finance and Personnel):

There is not, Chairperson. The terms of reference are before the First Minister and deputy First Minister for consideration. The Finance Minister cleared them last week, and Bruce Robinson, head of the Civil Service, put them to the First Minister and deputy First Minister. We are awaiting a comeback. I can speak in very broad terms as to the kind of things that are in the terms of reference.

The Chairperson:

The Committee is very anxious to have input first, rather than have a fait accompli on the terms of reference, given that it is an issue that we have put to the Minister. We are very pleased at the way in which he has responded, but we are most anxious to have that opportunity.

As regards the difficulties with the June monitoring round, which will go before the Executive again tomorrow, there is the possibility that there will be a statement and a plenary discussion next week. At this stage, it may be a probability. The Committee is on standby to have an extra meeting, even though we are now in the summer recess. We would like to do both if we could have that opportunity to discuss June monitoring, although you are not here to talk about that. If the necessary clearance comes back from the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), or can be achieved by, say, next Tuesday, that would allow the Committee the opportunity to express its views on the terms of reference before breaking for the summer.

Mr Baker:

I will not be here, Chairperson. I will be in France, and I am not keen to come back for the Committee’s meeting. However, I have teed things up so that —

The Chairperson:

I thought that you were offering to do it over there, and we could consider joining you.

Mr Hamilton:

We have not travelled very far.

Mr Baker:

I have teed things up so that they will be sent to the Committee as soon as they are cleared.

The Chairperson:

The point being that we would like an input before they are signed and sealed by the Executive. OK, that is excellent.

Mr Baker:

We were last here at the end of February, talking about HR Connect. At that stage, we identified some of the issues that were causing us difficulty and that we needed to focus on, as well as the programme implementation issues that were on the agenda for the coming months. Those difficult issues are still around, but I think that we have made good progress in all areas.

Management reporting was one area, and we have pretty much cracked that. We are generating the kind of management information and reports that we want about human resources (HR) generally, and the kind of issues that the Committee will be interested in, such as absence management, equal opportunities and so forth. We have made good progress there.

The second area of concern, which remains of concern, is the quality of the service from the shared service centre — the quality of service that staff experience. Again, we have invested a lot of time and effort on that with the contractor. The statistics in the report, which we may come to later, show that there have been significant improvements in the amount of time taken to answer calls, the number of abandoned calls and the number of call-back requests. We seem to be seeing some fruit there as a result of the efforts invested. There is still a lot of work to be done, I acknowledge, and not just around those quantitative elements, but on the quality of the engagement with staff from the shared services centre. That is work in progress, but it is going the right way.

The main element of concern was the accuracy of the payroll. That was very difficult, and caused huge reputational damage to us. That ground has to be clawed back. When we were last before the Committee, we were in the middle of a maelstrom of difficulties there, and we were trying to beat our way out of that. We wanted to step back and analyse the root causes of those problems so that we could address them, and we have managed to find the space and the time to do that — to dig into the problems and see where they exist. Although we continue to have difficulties, the trend for the May pay run — we have not yet got the figures for June — shows that we are now moving in the right direction. However, a programme of work is still to be done.

As regards the issue of programme implementation, when we were last here, three of the seven services were in place. Now, we have six of the seven services in place. We went live with learning and development in February, internal vacancy management in March, and performance management, which is the annual appraisal system, in May. We had hoped to have that in place in April, but there were technical difficulties. We are now focusing on the weekly payroll system for industrial staff, which is last service to be put in place. We have detailed plans in place and decision points set out over the course of the next month. We are in the final stages of testing, and, subject to that, our target for going live is 6 August. That is what testing is all about: to see whether a service is fit for purpose. That is a brief update on what has happened since we were here last.

Mr Hamilton:

I understand that this is a huge programme, the ultimate benefits of which are obvious and worthwhile. However, the period between the old and the new system has proven to be very difficult.

In your briefing paper, paragraph 13 provides an explanation of the helpful graph below it. It is always nice to have a graph in colour, as that sometimes makes it easier to digest the information. It seems that there are an inordinate number of inaccuracies. The paradox is that if you take out the inaccuracies that are attributable to error in the Civil Service, the number drops away down. The accuracy level is 98·3% or 99·3%; a lot of what are considered to be “inaccuracies” are attributable to you as civil servants and as a system.

What are the underlying causes of the remaining problems? Why is there still that level of inaccuracy? Although the number of people receiving no pay at all is very low, why is that still happening is some cases? It is one thing for someone to get the wrong pay, either because the system failed or because a line manager did not put the right pay through, but for someone to get no pay at all is very distressing.

Mr Baker:

You are absolutely right: to have a statistic on no pay is very alarming. I offer some reassurance to the Committee in that the shared service centre might identify the fact that someone is due to receive no pay before the pay is issued. They will see on the system that an individual is getting no pay and remedy that before the pay run.

A no-pay issue might arise, for example, when someone is recruited to the Civil Service for the first time and he or she does not get onto the payroll in time for that month’s pay run, or when someone is returning from a career break and that information is not logged. All no-pay events are top priority cases, and an immediate manual intervention is made so that those people get paid quickly. We deal with such cases first, on a triage basis, if you like. I appreciate your point. As I said at the last evidence session on the issue, pay is the single biggest issue that affects people. People, rightly, get upset when we get their pay wrong. I acknowledge that that is the area on which we need to concentrate.

As regards what lies behind the inaccuracies, you mentioned faults lying at the door of the Civil Service. That issue has much do with familiarity of the new system. Through HR Connect, what we have done is given a very strong role to individual members of staff and line managers via the self-service mechanism. There is, therefore, an issue of familiarity with how the system works; what staff need to do to enter data; and the timeliness with which they need to enter data to ensure that it is captured for a given month’s pay run.

I am not eligible to apply for overtime, but if I did, and my line manager delayed its approval, the overtime might not filter through to that month’s pay run. I might then raise a query about inaccurate pay. We have to educate people on an ongoing basis and ensure that they know what is expected of them; what they have to do and when they have to do it. We continue to issue lots of communication, such as e-learning packages, so that staff become more familiar with the system. We are getting used to the system, and we will get better as time goes on.

We have put a lot of effort into analysing the root causes of the inaccuracies in the shared services centre. There is a particular issue with how temporary promotions are dealt with, and it is just a systems problem. Believe it or not, lots of people in the Civil Service are working under temporary promotions at any given point in time. The system is not coping well with temporary promotions, and we need to remedy that. Indeed, we have already simplified the forms that are used to record temporary promotions.

There are also issues with the shared service centre inputting of data onto the system. There were concerns that the data was not getting onto the system quickly enough to be captured in each pay run. We have worked with the contractor to ensure that that is done in a more timely fashion. We have identified various issues that we are trying to remedy. We have also seconded a couple of our experts to the shared service centre to help to transfer knowledge; the contractor is paying for that, not us.

Mr Tommy O’Reilly (Department of Finance and Personnel):

We have been striving to get an automated system to deal with temporary promotions. However, it is difficult, because each record in the NICS pay system has to be checked manually to ensure that the person is being paid correctly. Someone who gets temporarily promoted receives an automatic 9% salary increase. The system can handle that quite well by moving that person to the next pay point. However, that person’s record has to be checked to see whether he or she has had a temporary promotion in any of the three previous years and a calculation has to be made to ascertain the appropriate pay point. That requires a lot of manual input, which becomes difficult for the shared service centre. Some staff ring to query why their temporary-promotion pay is wrong, because it is different from what they have worked out themselves. The shared service centre has to get used to that, and we must find a way of automating the system as much as possible.

The last time that we were at the Committee, the Chairperson mentioned the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) staff, who submit about 1,600 forms to the shared service centre every month. Shared service centre staff have to key that information onto the system manually, because the DVA business model does not allow its staff to input their own data. As with any business of this nature, the greater the number of manual interventions the greater potential there is for inaccuracy. There needs to be a balance between trying to develop the shared service centre’s knowledge and further reducing that group’s level of manual input.

Mr Hamilton:

Given the teething problems and growing pains, the large volume of complaints is understandable if not forgivable. Why do 602 of those complaints, which is a high percentage of the total of 4,302, remain under investigation?

The Chairperson:

Why is there a spike in the number of complaints in March and April? The figures for those months nearly go off the graph.

Mr Baker:

I accept Mr Hamilton’s point that the number of complaints is unacceptably high. The number has fallen significantly since it spiked in March. We had particular difficulties at that time, which coincided with our appearance before the Committee.

The Chairperson:

You are not blaming us, are you?

Mr Baker:

No; I am not. [Laughter.] It was just unfortunate that we were here when that was going on. We had particular difficulties with pay in February and January, and we received a number of complaints. Indeed, the difficulties in February were a hangover from our overpaying of a number of staff in January. That was caused by a technical difficulty about which I will not go into detail. Our procedures require us to claw that money back, so the shared service centre had to engage with staff on how to do that. That caused a little bit of friction and difficulty; our policy is to get the money back the month after the error, but some staff may want to negotiate a phased clawback of the money. As a consequence of that engagement, there may have been a higher number of complaints in February and March. The number of complaints has fallen significantly over the past two months; we will wait to see what June shows, but hopefully the fall is part of a trend.

Mr Hamilton:

Why have you carried forward such a high number of complaints? It is a very high number to still have under investigation.

Mr Baker:

The reason for that was simply the high volume. We hope to clear them in early July.

Mrs Patricia Corbett (Department of Finance and Personnel):

We have not been satisfied with the high number of complaints, but we have been working closely with the contractor so that it can resolve them. Our team has been working with the contractor to assist it in how it works with civil servants to understand the quality of response that they want. We received a commitment from the contractor that those complaints would be resolved within the standard response time, which is no longer than 10 days. As of last night, the number of outstanding complaints has been reduced from 602 to 72, and there is a guarantee that those remaining complaints will be cleared by the end of the week. I am pleased to say that we are back on a level playing field in our management of the complaints.

Mr Hamilton:

That is very good.

The Chairperson:

What will happen if any of those complaints fall outside the 10-day response period?

Mrs Corbett:

They will be escalated to my team to deal with, to ensure that the level of outstanding complaints does not creep up again. We will continue to monitor the situation.

Mr Hamilton:

I mentioned that the accuracy levels have been between a high of 99·3% and a low of 98·3%, so there is a flexibility of one percentage point. That is not bad, considering the number of processes. However, as Mr Baker has said regularly, we are talking about pay, which is fundamental to people’s lives. The briefing paper states that the minimum acceptable level of accuracy is 99·9%, which is basically perfection. It also states that adherence to that level is the basis on which the contractor receives payment. If the contractor is shy of that accuracy level, what sanction is in place? Has a sanction been invoked because that accuracy level has not been achieved?

Mr Baker:

The sanction relates to abatements to the service charge with regard to payroll. There are service charges levied on each of the services as part of the contract, and there are service levels for each of those services. If the service levels are not met, there is an abatement regime in place; in other words, we play the contractor less money. We have applied that abatement regime for the first months of service — December, January and February — in relation to payroll, and we are analysing the level of abatements that might be applied for March, April and May. Those abatements have been levied.

Mr Hamilton:

Can you quantify that?

Mr Baker:

Sorry, I do not have the figures to hand.

The Chairperson:

Will you come back to the Committee with those figures?

Mr Baker:

Yes; I can get those details very easily.

Mr Hamilton:

That will be useful.

The Chairperson:

This regime is brand new, and we have to anticipate some resistance to it. To what extent are there complaints that are regarded as vexatious? Those complaints may be recorded as resolved, but to what extent can we quantify the level of resistance?

Mr Baker:

We have been trying to get underneath the complaints or, indeed, the service requests; not every service request is an inaccuracy. I would not regard any complaint about pay as vexatious; it is totally understandable, which is the point that we made earlier. As I said, we lost the battle on reputation early on, because of the difficulties, not just those with payroll. People were prepared for difficulties with a brand new system; we were never going to be able to renew payroll without difficulties. However, reputational issues arose over the poor quality of service from the shared service centre in dealing with queries from staff: they had difficulty getting through, the phone was not being answered and they were not getting a call back that they were promised. That is what really irritated people, what damaged the reputation and what we are trying to claw back.

Our submission to the Committee contains statistics on improvements in those service levels, but that damage will be difficult to claw back. There is a consciousness among staff who have engaged with HR Connect that this thing does not work or is poor. That becomes an urban myth. In due course, the facts may tell a different story, but we are left with the difficult job of clawing back that reputation. Therefore, it is very difficult for me to answer the question about how many of the queries and complaints are vexatious. We must accept and deal with every one of them as genuine and fairly made.

The Chairperson:

I will not press that issue, because I understand the challenging task of introducing a new system and having it bought into.

Mr O’Loan:

The witnesses are welcome. It seems to be their lot to be at the Committee recently to receive a hard time.

Before this session started, I was commenting on the Department’s performance in relation to public service agreements (PSAs), which relates to this subject. I was critical about that document not referring to the very significant problems with HR Connect. In fairness, it should have. The failure to do so raised concerns in my mind about the quality of reporting across all of the PSAs. If problems exist, they should be stated up front to avoid any suggestion of cover-ups.

Mr Hamilton raised a couple of points that I intended to and to which I will return. Clearances appear to be referred to in the “opening balances” graph on page 7 of the Department’s paper. On the face of it, things do not appear to be going well. If anything, the trend is upwards. However, Mrs Corbett has just told the Committee that the situation is actually well improved. Is that absolutely the case? In other words, have things changed very significantly since that graph was printed, to the extent that clearance has become dramatically better?

Mrs Corbett:

In relation to complaints, absolutely, yes. A particular team has been put onto clearing those because of the spike in complaints. The situation was exacerbated by people putting in multiple complaints.

Mr O’Loan:

Were they complaining again because they had not got any resolution?

Mrs Corbett:

They were not getting a resolution or a response, and they were coming back again. Staff also thought that they would be dealt with more quickly if they made a complaint as well as raising a query on inaccurate pay; therefore, the shared service centre was trying to deal with the same issue in three areas.

Mr O’Loan:

I echo Mr Baker’s point that it is a great pity that the reputation of the whole project has been damaged by that. It is clear that payroll is a big problem. It seems that anything that deviates from the norm runs into problems. A system needs to be there to meet that purpose. I do not, by any means, buy the Department’s defence that the problems are within the Civil Service — that they relate to the original officer or their line manager — because that is all part of the system. HR Connect is all about a unified system, of which the member of staff and manager are part. A failure to use the system correctly immediately raises questions in my mind about training. I must say that I still regard that as a criticism of the system.

Mr Baker:

I agree. I did not mean to present that as a defence; it was just an explanation of what is going on. I agree entirely that it is the Department’s responsibility, in the programme, to ensure that Civil Service staff are equipped with the skills and knowledge to use the system. If they cannot do so, we must do something about it; we must provide them with that support. I agree entirely.

If the system as a whole is not operating right, it does not really matter much whether the issue lies in the shared service centre, with civil servants or with somebody else. We must get the whole thing working right. That is as much our priority as fixing the stuff in the shared service centre. I agree with your point and take no issue with it.

Mr O’Loan:

I want to question you further on Simon’s point about the issue of sanctions. As your report says, the basis of payment is the level of accuracy. You will be giving us detail on that. However, can you tell us now whether the penalty involved is enough to worry the contractor, or is it just a mild sting?

Mr Baker:

I do not want to get into detailed commercial issues. However, the way in which the contract was set up passed a lot of the risk involved in implementing the programme to the contractor. We are in a position of no service, no fee. If a service is not delivered on time, there are no milestone payments. I have acknowledged that we are behind the target that we set three years ago, although I am hopeful that we are close to full implementation. Most of that financial risk is borne by the contractor. The abatement regime and the regime of liquidated damages, which was built in for late delivery, is more than a mild irritation to the contractor. I can guarantee that, without going into the detail of the contractor’s books and finances.

Mr O’Loan:

It certainly ought to be.

There is a system that involves personal performance agreements (PPAs) and personal development plans (PDPs), which are to do with appraisal and development. It seems to be difficult and bothersome for members of staff, even those who are IT conversant, to use the system for that purpose. Does that have to do with the issue of training, or is it that the system is actually difficult to use?

Mr Baker:

It is a new system, and any new system will present some difficulties. It is a training and familiarisation issue for us to address. The performance management service went live in May and is totally new. Under the system, in conjunction with their line manager, staff will enter their personal objectives at the start of the year and will then be prompted to complete a mid-year review and an end-of-year appraisal. That will all be done online. It is totally new, and there are new steps to go through. Anybody using the system for the first time might approach it with a certain amount of trepidation. However, we are supporting staff through that with a comprehensive suite of electronic learning packages — what we call e-learning — that show people exactly what to do and take them through the process on a step-by-step basis. I hope that when staff members go through the online process one or two times they will become more familiar with it.

Mr O’Loan:

Is there a danger that, instead of a traditional system in which people knew who they were talking to and that person knew them and responded to their individual needs, we now have a faceless system that is extremely impersonal and insensitive?

Mr Baker:

No. I can offer an assurance on that point. It is simply the documentation that is completed online. The new process does not obviate the need for face-to-face engagement between an individual and his or her line manager to discuss his or her end-of-year appraisal and performance, the setting of objectives and so forth. The system is simply a recording mechanism so that we do not have lots of forms floating all over the place and people chasing paperwork. The documentation is now transmitted electronically.

Mr McQuillan:

You said that there was overpayment in January. In December, a lot of staff received underpayments, and some people did not receive pay at all. Has that situation been sorted out now? I spoke to one girl in April or May who was still owed £15 from December. That is not a lot of money, but it does not instil confidence in the system when it cannot get that right. Is anyone still waiting for payment?

Mr Baker:

The overpayment in January was a technical issue. Somehow we managed to decouple two elements of the IT application, and that resulted in an overpayment. That was a one-off, which has been corrected. People who got no pay in December will have been paid. As I said to Mr Hamilton, where somebody gets no pay there is a sudden, urgent —

Mr McQuillan:

I realise that. The person that I referred to was paid before Christmas but did not get the proper payment.

Mr Baker:

If payment is still outstanding to anyone who did not get their proper pay in December, that is a serious issue. I do not know of the individual circumstances, so, if you are asking me whether there is anybody out there who was paid inaccurately in December and still has not had that remedied, I cannot answer that question. However, there should not be.

Mr McQuillan:

How sympathetic are line managers in allowing people, especially those who work in front line services, to have time off to contact HR Connect? I hear that they are not too sympathetic. People who do front line jobs or who are on front line desks are put under serious pressure to get back to work and are not given the proper time to contact HR Connect.

Mr Baker:

The answer to that, which is part of the education role, is that we should give staff every opportunity to engage with HR Connect. We acknowledge that not everybody sits at a desk or has access to a desktop computer, where most of the interactions take place, so staff in certain business areas — Mr O’Reilly mentioned the DVA, for example — need to be given the facility to engage by telephone because that is the only way to do it.

One of the other issues that we are looking at, which is difficult but necessary to examine, is how we can allow staff the facility to nominate a third party to engage with HR Connect on their behalf, if that is what they want to do. Obviously, there are issues regarding security and personal information, and how we bottom that out is important, but we are trying to introduce that facility so that it may help people who do not have access to a desktop computer.

Mr McQuillan:

When, or how, do you hope to introduce that facility?

Mr O’Reilly:

We currently plan to introduce it for the industrial staff when we introduce the new industrial payroll in August. We intend then to roll it out for the remaining NICS staff towards the end of the year, in relation to being able to make calls directly and hand off to someone who can speak on their behalf, or set up an arrangement in which a third party can ring in at any time and deal with the business on behalf of the individual member of staff. We really hope that it will be fully rolled out across the NICS towards the end of the year.

Mr McQuillan:

That will be a big help.

Mr Weir:

Looking at the graphs and the trends, I think that everyone appreciates that there are always likely to be teething problems, particularly when people are getting used to the system. Looking at the graph, one would expect to see a peak almost at the start, which would then start to come down. I appreciate that there is a lead-in time with some of these issues, but the graph of the five- or six-month period certainly fluctuates up and down. From a practical point of view, however, it does not appear to have come down a great deal. As Declan pointed out, it has, if anything, gone up slightly.

Paragraph 20 lists action points that will have a degree of impact. Have all of those been put in place, or are they in the process of being put in place? You made reference to a degree of impact time — if something is done in May, for instance, you do not really see the results until July. Perhaps it is difficult to judge, but, in relation to the actions that you have taken, when do you expect to start seeing reasonably swift dips in the graphs?

Mr Baker:

I agree with you about the payroll inaccuracies: the plateau has lasted too long. We are now seven months into a new service, and, although we expected to encounter difficulties at the start, we wanted to see improvements before this stage. That has not happened, and I acknowledge the point.

As I said earlier, HR Connect was probably overwhelmed in the early months, and we were firefighting. We had so many issues, queries and complaints and we dealt with them on an ad hoc basis. The real focus of attention was simply to clear those individual issues out of the way. Perhaps we were not strategic enough in stepping back and analysing the root causes behind those, but we are in that position now and we are analysing the root causes. We are out of that firefighting mode and we are onto a more even keel, and there is greater familiarisation. We have put measures in place as a consequence of that root-cause analysis.

There is a time lag, but the May figures showed an improvement, which is a consequence of some of those actions. I do not have the June figures, but those should start to come through quite soon. The June pay was last week, so we should start to get the statistics fairly soon. If your question is when we want to see an improvement, the answer is immediately — and I expect to see that improvement immediately.

Mr Weir:

When you want to see an improvement is not really the question; we all want to see an improvement. The more pertinent question is when you expect to see an improvement.

Mr Baker:

We expect to see an improvement immediately. We saw an improvement in May, and the improvement in the performance of the shared service centre is evidenced by the figures. That gives us confidence that the shared service centre is getting on top of things and dealing with them more quickly. One feeds off the other; if the shared service centre can deal with issues more quickly and get on top of them, hopefully that will feed through to the inaccuracies. It is getting more adept at what it is doing.

Mr O’Reilly:

The shared service centre has been almost schizophrenic. One half of it has been dealing with a live payroll and other services, and, at the same time, the other half has been implementing, in project form, a range of new services. It has a twin focus. I think that in August, when the industrial payroll is brought in and the shared service centre is able to bed down as a live service provider, it will stabilise and become more mature as a service provider. It will take a number of months for that to start to show tangible evidence of improvement.

Mr Baker:

I think that that is true of the Department; we have been a bit schizophrenic. We are driving the programme implementation process forward and trying to hit target dates, and, at the same time, trying to deal with the defects in an existing service. It will be good to get out of the programme implementation phase, to focus on the service quality, and to not be spreading our resources too thinly.

The Chairperson:

On 23 March, in response to Committee concerns, the Minister wrote to advise us that the Northern Ireland Audit Office would review the technical and service operations of HR Connect, and would make recommendations for improvement within six weeks. The Minister indicated that the end-user experience would be a key element in the next gateway review, a point that the Committee had raised. Can you update us on progress on those issues?

Mr Baker:

The Northern Ireland Audit Office commissioned the Wales Audit Office, oddly enough, to review the IT elements of HR Connect. I think that that review went further and looked at some of the processes. That is part of the Northern Ireland Audit Office’s standard end-of-year assessment which is input to the resource accounts. We have not seen that report.

Mr O’Reilly:

We understand that it has been completed, but that the Northern Ireland Audit Office has not released it to the Department with any comments. We are expecting it in the near future.

Mr Baker:

We have tentatively scheduled what we call a gateway 5, which will be a reflective gateway review. The gateway 4 reviews were about readiness for service. Gateway 5 has tentatively been scheduled for September or October, and will look back at implementation.

In conjunction with that, although not necessarily to do with HR Connect, as part of the overall reform programme within the Civil Service looking at the full range of reform programmes, a piece of work is under way to assess staff experience and attitude toward reform. HR Connect will be included in that. That work is being led by OFMDFM; however, it will have a component which specifically asks staff about their experiences of HR Connect. At this stage, I am not optimistic about what the outcome of that will be. However, we will take it on the chin and move forward from there.

The Chairperson:

I could probably write the script.

Mr Baker:

We will take whatever lessons come out of that and deal with them. That survey, I think, is currently under way. It has been electronically issued to all civil servants and we are all expected to respond.

The Chairperson:

When has the gateway 5 review been tentatively scheduled for?

Mr Baker:

It has been tentatively scheduled for October. It depends on the industrial payroll successfully going live. A gateway 5 review comes at the end of an implementation process; therefore, we have to implement the programme now. The target for the industrial payroll is August, but we will see how that pans out. When that is done, we will have a wash-up gateway 5.

The Chairperson:

Thank you; enjoy France. Thank you very much. As they say, we will be in touch.

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