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on 12 July 2006
This is a detailed history, and a coruscating critique of New Labour's seemingly never ending and increasingly pathological infatuation with the major management and IT consultancies recycling their obvious and faddish nonsense round the world, with the UK providing the easiest and juiciest pickings. Given the near-universal commercial secrecy of the deals between the consultancies and the public sector, it is hardly surprising that there are some gaps in the costings - but Craig and Brooks seem to have come up with pretty good estimates from secondary sources and insider guesstimates. The numbers are jaw-dropping.

The authors clearly have a great deal of experience in IT consultancies (that Craig has worked in the industry for many years is irrelevant). Their account of the serial disasters in IT systems in the UK (Criminal Records Bureau, Inland Revenue, Child Support Agency, Passport Agency etc, etc) shows that New Labour is congenitally incapable of learning from its ritual mistakes, wonderfully aided in their mass-narcosis by departments themselves widely invaded by consultants who increasingly rapidly whizz round the revolving doors between the public and private sectors, and who then magic up their own self-adulatory end of term reports. Only the Commons Public Accounts Committee emerges honourably as any kind of brake on the stupidity of government departments being taken in by this bilge, and it is the verbatim accounts of exchanges in this Committee that provide the most hilariously tragic paragraphs in the book. It's not the authors' fault that the exchanges are farcical (see earlier review); the questions asked are sound and frequently hard-hitting.

The almost incomprehensible gullibility and near-criminal wastefulness of procurement within the Ministry of Defence is outlined, but the most detailed case study is that of the NHS National Project for Information Technology, now called Connecting for Health. From my reading of the serious press, this appears to be an exhaustive and accurate critique of the largest IT project ever undertaken - anywhere - and poised on the cusp of the most spectacular collapse of all the many disastrous IT initiatives of this Government. But there ARE good things in the project, and some obvious solutions for preserving these, while ditching the useless and harmful, are proffered. Tragically, for a government so apparently obsessed with small business, the multiple small companies that produced so much niche and specialist software, much of it for healthcare, have been ruthlessly elbowed out by the new providers of gargantuan centralised systems.

Finally, some broader solutions are explored. The USA recognised the gravy train as far back as 1996, and legislated to prevent the worse excesses of the consultancy industry; in addition, insider information is encouraged, with financial rewards for those who root out scams. In the UK, the consultancy industry appears, from this account, to be completely out of control, and New Labour is now so nearly coterminous with it that even if they were able to recognise the problem (which they can't), and wanted to extract themselves from it (which they don't), the absorption is now probably irreversible. Please read this deeply upsetting book, and get all your friends in the Public Sector to buy it as well. It just might have an effect. All other hope is utterly lost.
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on 4 July 2006
I read this book because I read in the papers that the writers have been invited by the government to participate in a big enquiry into its use of consultants. Critics being invited inside like that doesn't happen very often so the book must have got something right ... The chapter about the NHS system is eye watering and should be compulsory reading for all UK taxpayers. For a real laugh, see the bits about the Ministry of Defence trying to explain why its projects keep going over time and budget ...
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on 24 October 2006
After reading Rip-Off! this book was a complete eye-opener on the consulting industry in the public sector, and pretty much confirmed what I experienced.

An absolutely excellent read that will make your blood boil at the money squandering in government and make you get off your feet to do something about it.
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on 17 March 2010
My eyes blinded with tears, shaking with impotent rage, I couldn't quite read to the end of this revelatory book.

You see, I have worked in the National Health Service since 1979 and read Private Eye for most of that time, and I have seen all this happening, time after time. We have come to assume that politicians will act stupidly, incompetently and line their own pockets.

The book documents the £billions wasted on (for example) the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) untold billions have gone-and will go, as the debt will take DECADES to clear- into the pockets of speculators, many of whom have close relationships with the government ministers who set up the contracts.

One example. Sir Duncan Nichol, chief executive of the NHS during years when deals were being cut with the private sector, cherry picking deals which they couldn't fail to make money on, took early retirement and his rich civil service pension, and then WALKED STRAIGHT IN to a job with BUPA (now SPIRE), Britain's biggest private healthcare provider. I am not suggesting that Sir Duncan acted illegally, merely that it seems probable that the private healthcare sector thought he was a jolly good fellow and had managed the NHS is a way of which they approved. Is it possible to imagine, without falling foul of England's oppressive libel laws, so often used by rich criminals like Robert Maxwell to stifle investigative journalism, that he was in bed with the private health system while he was chief executive of the NHS? This story was barely mentioned in the press. Lots of this sort of thing went on, it just didn't make any front pages, and if it did, most people were more interested in Pete Andre and Jordan or other such tales.

In the UK, in a short time we will have what is called a General Election, an arcane process whereby every 5 years or so we get to choose a dictator from a short list of two. 99% of us had nothing to do with drawing up that short list. As certain as death, whoever is the next Prime Minister, Gordon the psychotic Stalinist or Dave the millionaire smoothie, there will be, within 18 months, another re-organisation of the NHS. Like the other NHS re-organisations I have endured, about one every 5 years since 1980, it will be based on the personal preferences of politicians who don't understand health care , with advice from highly selected advisors many of whom have something to sell (and are very skilled at drawing up win-win contracts in which they win twice whatever happens). It will be disruptive, costly, incompetent and will leave things worse-just like the present NHS IT system (£12.7 billion wasted so far) and 'choose and book'-£billions down the toilet for no benefit. Above all, it will not seek the counsel of the career caring professionals. That's just health, the same will happen in other areas of state expenditure. David Craig provided the evidence behind this sort of thing.

Read this along with Peter Hitchens 'The Broken Compass', I suppose it is theoretically possible that if enough people opened their eyes and envisaged a different future, and were willing to work for it, it might be possible to return to reason. But with every moron who watches The X Factor and Big Brother having a vote, we most likely will be fooled again. The politicians have taken fooling a sufficient number of the people in marginal seats enough of the time to an art form.
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on 18 January 2009
Having experienced consultants on a professional level, the synopsis for this book compelled me to purchase it.
I had long believed that a consultant's role was not to provide a solution, but to provide continued employment for themself. This book confirms this theory.
Given that David Craig has written this book with a poacher-turned-gamekeeper's insight, it is hard to see how anyone can argue that the government have handed large consultancy firms a succession of blank cheques, with little or no control over, or accountability for, the results.
A damning critique of Labour in general, and the consultancy industry in particular.
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on 18 April 2015
How could anyone contemplate voting Labour after seeing the way consultants milked the public sector under the Blair/Brown administrations
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on 3 July 2015
Did not like it much.Given to charity shop.
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on 6 June 2006
This is an extraordinary book. It is a classic example of the worst tabloid journalism. Start with a view and then string together partial facts, sweeping generalisations, misleading use of statistics and conclude the answer you want.

There are very important questions to be answered about the use of consultants within the public sector but sadly this book addresses none of them.

I enjoyed reading the book but because it is funny not informative.
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