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e-Envoy 'Faces Downgrade and Budget Cuts'

eGov monitor Weekly

10 March 2003

The future of the UK's eGovernment programme has been thrown into uncertainty following reports that the e-Envoy's role is to be downgraded and his Office's budget slashed by at least a quarter.

According to reports, the Office of the e-Envoy (OeE) is to be stripped of its policy-making powers and reduced to a "small unit". The move comes after Ministers and departments were said to have raised concerns that the OeE is duplicating work elsewhere in government and not delivering value for money.

The e-Envoy, who currently leads on e-strategy, will have reduced responsibilities and a "more streamlined focus", becoming a "champion" or "galvanising" figure rather than forming policy, sources claim. Many of his team, which number around 145 full-time equivalents, are set to be transferred or redeployed, leaving what is described as only a "very basic staff".

The decision is expected to be confirmed following next month's Budget, with further details likely to emerge in the next fortnight when the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, Sir Andrew Turnbull, appears before the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee.

Questioned on reports of the cuts, Andrew Pinder, the e-Envoy, commented: "I am personally completely confident that I will have adequate resource to do
my job.

"The Office of the e-Envoy will continue to campaign and co-ordinate the UK's drive to become the world's leading knowledge economy, and remains dedicated to getting government services available online with a high take-up."

The OeE, set up at the height of the dot-com boom in 1999 with a wide-ranging remit to promote the "e-agenda", has faced continued criticism over its management of the eGovernment programme. In June 2002 the Cabinet Office announced that its responsibilities in the area of the 'e-Economy', including broadband and the Electronic Communications Act, were to be moved to the Department of Trade and Industry.

The OeE last year received a budget of £17.4 million, in addition to £30m allocated from the Capital Modernisation Fund.

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