The Security Service

One of the great frustrations of being a supplier to Government – particularly with the amount of time we spend embedded on-site with Government teams – is the security pass situation. Regularly working in locations where you need to be permanently escorted and can’t even go to the loo, let alone a meeting room or the canteen, without your chaperone is frustrating, a blocker for delivery and honestly just a little embarrassing (not only for us but for whoever gets lumbered with chaperoning!)

Different Departments have different approaches. Heck different buildings in the same Department can be totally different.

I understand the need for security and vetting staff. That isn’t really the issue. The issue is the path to getting vetted if you are not a Civil Servant.

At the moment for anything above BPSS – the lowest level of check – you need to be sponsored by a Department. There is a cost involved for the supplier – but in the grand scheme that is trivial – the problem is it is time consuming. There is an admin effort on behalf of the Department and then there is a backlog to just get the checks done. It is not a rapid process so it is never at the top of anyones list of tasks to take on.

Of course if you are a List X company – that is a commercial company that has passed the clearance to handle SECRET documents on their own sites then you can sponsor your own staff. This immediately gives the big SIs, the big four consultants and apparently once upon a time Cambridge Analytica a leg-up. As far as I am aware nobody is allowed to make a procurement decision based on this criteria but human beings are prone to unconscious bias and the friction of landing a team needing sponsorship compared to a team where everyone is already holding the relevant clearances is bound to be an factor I think.

At the moment from the open ‘Digital Outcomes’ opportunities on the Digital Marketplace.

Five are BPSS.

Four don’t mention security clearances at all.

Two accept BPSS but require staff to be seeking Security Check (SC).

Two require Counter Terrorism Checks (CTC).

One requires Parliamentary Security Clearance.

Four require Security Check (SC).

Two require Security Check (SC) at a minimum but also Developed Vetting (DV).

Here is my proposal to balance the scales here a bit. All companies that make it onto the DOS framework should have a pathway to arrange for the clearance of their staff. This could be self funding I think – I imagine you could come up with a cost model that would make it at worst cost neutral to the Government and still worth the investment for the suppliers….and it will also improve things for Digital staff on the ground in the Departments.

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