Met Office has IBM executive as IT head

The Met Office gained ministerial approval to appoint an IBM employee for a year as secondee CIO, until the end of October 2011, according to information released under the FOI Act. It appears that the salary of the IBM executive...

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The Met Office gained ministerial approval to appoint an IBM employee for a year as secondee CIO, until the end of October 2011, according to information released under the FOI Act. 

It appears that the salary of the IBM executive David Young is being paid, at least in part, by the Met Office. In documents released under the FOI Act the Met Office has redacted [edited out] details of Young’s proposed remuneration and performance bonus.

As a trading fund within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Met Office is required to operate on a commercial basis. It was part of the Ministry of Defence at the time of Young’s appointment. His recruitment was approved by the Secretary of State.

Internal emails show that the Met Office apparently overcame a recruitment ban and constraints on secondments.  

Having your CIO seconded from your biggest IT supplier may be novel but it could be controversial because of the perception of a potential conflict of interest. 

It would not the first time a public authority has been involved in a controversy after seconding an IBM employee as head of IT. 

In 1993 a report of the district auditor criticised the then Wessex Regional Health Authority after it transpired that a member of the health authority was a director of IBM. The IBM director at Wessex promoted a controversial and successful bid for core systems to be supplied to the health authority by IBM and Andersen Consulting (later Accenture). The director later asked that his letter lobbying for the contract be destroyed.

The auditor also found that the Wessex authority bought an IBM mainframe without proper legal authority, the members of the authority having not been informed. The authority paid an unnecessarily high sum for the mainframe and there were doubts the machine was needed. A decision to proceed with the purchase of the mainframe at Wessex was made on the advice of the regional health authority’s new regional information systems manager who was an IBM secondee.

The Met Office, however, has given full consideration to the potential for a conflict of interest in appointing Young as its CIO. It said in a statement this week:

“Full consideration of any potential conflicts of interest regarding David Young's appointment were fully considered prior to his appointment and his terms of engagement specifically cover these.

"The Met Office complies with specific rules set by the government with regard to procurement and purchases of IT equipment must be agreed by the Met Office Executive."

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