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Aspectual Analysis: Why Governments are Addicted to Large Suppliers?

In an article How governments become addicted to suppliers like Fujitsu The Register sets out a complex web of reasons. Here we separate out their various aspects, and add some more, in order to understand more deeply.

Fujitsu is the IT firm that supplied the notorious Horizon system to the UK Post Office, the centre of "one of the largest miscarriages of justice in British legal history." Yet, according to the Register article, even after flaws in the Horizon system were recognised, the UK government and public bodies have kept on awarding Fujitsu contracts worth over 5 bn UK pounds. Why?

The Story. Briefly, the Horizon system was installed at all UK Post Office branches throughout the UK around 2000, and in their contracts the postmasters were made responsible for all losses "however caused". They were assured that only they had access to their accounts, but it was not true. Fujitsu engineers also had access, and regularly altered postmaster accounts to deal with bugs and various other errors. The main perpetrator of the injustices was the Post Office, who prosecuted nearly 1000 postmasters for theft, fraud, etc. and withheld this information from courts even after they knew it. But Fujitsu itself is not without blame. Not only was the system full of bugs, but they withheld information from the public and the Post Office. (See the Wikipedia article on the Horizon Scandal for more.)

Some Reasons for Contracting Fujitsu

From article The problems: their aspects
-- Fujitsu --
"extended an IT services contract with Fujitsu worth 12 million ($15 million) after running out of time to complete the tender process." Time limits: Economic
Contract: Juridical
"The contract notice explained moving to an alternative supplier was not advisable as 'the system and licenses are not readily interchangeable or interoperable. Any attempt to transfer systems without an adequate transition period poses an unjustifiable risk of business disruption and total network failure.'" Fear: pistic, ethical dysfunction
Avoidance of risk: formative aspect
Possible unwillingness to do the work required: formative aspect dysfunction
Legal complexity: juridical, analytical
"HMRC also awarded Fujitsu a 168.8 million ($215 million) deal without competition to ensure critical applications running customs checks were still in place while the much-delayed replacement was finished." Ensuring system running: formative
Technical development delayed: formative
Without competition: Juridical dysfunction
"a Police National Computer contract was awarded to Fujitsu in August 2022 after no other companies bid for the work. ... A year earlier, 413,000 records of evidence were lost from the central database [a Fujitsu system]." No other bidders; one wonders why: Economic aspect
Previous failures and dysfunction do not matter: Pistic dysfunction of
-- More General --
"account management teams within large IT contractors are better resourced than commercial teams within clients, and they have worked on more deals." Experience ..: formative
.. at negotiating: lingual
"The same is true on the technical side. When clients outsource, skills go with the work. Being retained by the client is rarely the best option in terms of pay or experience." Experience ..: formative
.. in technical matters: formative
Cheaper: economic
"dearth of technical and commercial skills within a government" Skills: formative
Dearth: economic
"[Governments] don't understand enough about what the system does? " Not understanding the system: analytical dysfunction
"Commercially, how can you renegotiate or manage the contract if you don't have the commensurate skills and experience?" Lack of experience: formative dysfunction
"less risky to go with an incumbent supplier than to find an alternative" Avoidance of risk: ethical dysfunction
"Yet, we don't see the technical or commercial skills in government to deal with the challenges. In fact, the opposite is the case. ... the government's technology programs are 'hobbled by staff shortages, and a lack of support, accountability and focus from the top...' ... There is no sign of budgets for the necessary upskilling. " Multi-aspectual reasons:

Staff shortages: economic
lack of support from the top: pistic + social dysfunction
Lack of focus at the top: analytical dysfunction
lack of accountability at the top: juridical and ethical dysfunction
No budgets allocated: pistic belief about what is important leading to economic dysfunction

"When the media focus on Fujitsu dies down, under-resourced and under-skilled public sector tech and commercial teams will experience painful fiscal tightening, the same tech giants will return to the trough, ... almost regardless of performance." Media focus dying down: lingual functioning
View of what is important: pistic functioning
under-resourced does not matter: economic dysfunction
under-skilled does not matter: formative dysfunction
-- Other Reasons --
(Ones that have been mentioned elsewhere)
'Who one knows' Social functioning
Hidden agendas Pistic and lingual dysfunction
Corrupt gain for self Ethical dysfunction
... And so on
-- And, of course ... --
(A valid reason, based on Good)
Actually being the best option ... Multi-aspectual good functioning, in whatever aspect we choose to measure "best" by
... But it depends on how we define "best" Pistic functioning

Analysis

As we can see, there are many aspects involved. That is why this issue is complex, and attending to one issue will seldom solve the problem. Moreover, notice the mix of good or valid functioning and aspectual dysfunction.

Notice also how many of the dysfunctions are in the ethical aspect of attitude (selfish, self-protective) and pistic aspect of mindset: beliefs, assumptions, presuppositions, expectations that are false combined with aspirations and commitments that are idolatrous. These two aspects impact how we function in all other aspects, and their impact is often hidden, but powerful. For example hidden agendas. Moreover, our functioning in these two aspects is often not just personal or individual but is the very 'culture' of the organisation, especially in government and large corporations. A mindset prevails, and any who depart from it are seen as outsiders, not worth listening to, or even as traitors. An attitude pervades, which it is very difficult to break, often requiring sacrifice to do so. Alan Bates and the pioneers of the Post Office scandal were willing to pay that price.

I do not claim that the above aspectual analysis is comprehensive or even adequate, but it does show how the disparate factors can be separated out so as to gain clarity and understanding.

What Can We Do About It?

1. We snould first perform a careful aspectual analysis.

2. Also, for any aspects that do not emerge from this analysis, probe to see whether in fact they are meaningful, having been merely ignored or taken for granted.

3. Carefully investigate the roles that pistic and ethical aspects play (mindset, attitude), their hidden impacts.

4. Take courage (good pistic functioning) and make changes, even at personal sacrifice (good ethical functioning).

(5. If you are a Christian, you have the example in Jesus Christ. Others might find other examples.)


This page, "http://dooy.info/using/govs.addicted.html", is part of a collection that discusses application of Herman Dooyeweerd's ideas, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments are welcome.

Written on the Amiga and Protext in the style of classic HTML.

You may use this material subject to conditions. Compiled by Andrew Basden.

Created: 12 January 2024 Last updated: