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HMRC says new digital chief will cut Microsoft ties

19/09/17

Department says Jacky Wright will sever all connections with software giant when stepping into new job

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has insisted that its new chief digital and information officer will cut ties with her former employer when she takes up the post next month.

Jacky WrightThe assertion comes in response to a report that Jacky Taylor (pictured) is taking a two-year leave of absence rather than leaving her position at Microsoft.

It has stirred up a measure of controversy around the appointment, which was announced last week.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “Jacky Wright brings the skills we need to deliver on our commitment to transform HMRC into a world class tax service. When Jacky begins work for HMRC she will sever all financial, strategic and business connections with Microsoft.”

report published yesterday by The Register said that Wright was only on a long term sabbatical from Microsoft, and included a statement from HMRC – not directly contradicted by today’s – saying she would be employed on a two-year contract and “recuse herself from any discussion and decisions relating to Microsoft”. This would apply within the department and across government, backed up by governance plans.

Wright is currently Microsoft’s corporate vice president, core platform engineering, having been in the position since 2011. Before that she had stints as chief information officer at BP, Momentive Performance Materials and General Electric Corporation.

She is due to take up the new role on 16 October as Mike Potter moves to become director for future borders.

Sensitivities

The sensitivities around her appointment derive from HMRC being a large scale user of Microsoft software, running tens of thousands of desktops and a server estate on the Windows operating system. There have also been reports it is considering a possible move to the company’s Azure cloud platform.

The department’s statement reflects the sometimes awkward circumstances around senior staff moving between public and private sectors. The concerns have mainly been around civil servants moving to commercial companies, but there are also potential problems when the individual is moving from a company to a public authority, especially if it is a major customer of their former employer.

It complicates the process – presented by government as a virtue for several years – of senior people bringing skills from one side of the fence to the other.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

Register: Library & Alerts

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