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HMRC chief digital wonk Jacky Wright takes flight back to Microsoft's light

'I am so proud of all that we have achieved in my two years'

HMRC's chief digital information officer, Jacky Wright, is returning to Microsoft after two years in the role.

Wright was corporate vice president at Microsoft before starting the secondment in 2017. But as The Register exclusively revealed, she was forced to recuse herself from making any commercial decisions regarding Microsoft given her corporate ties.

Like most large organisations, the UK taxman has a significant Microsoft footprint. The department is thought to have up to 85,000 desktops running Windows.

In a statement, HMRC said Wright has overseen "a wholesale transformation of CDIO Group" and introduced online collaborative working via video and messaging. It also mentioned the department's cloud migration project.

As The Register also revealed, UK cloud provider DataCentred went under after HMRC pulled the plug on a services contract in 2017, in favour of a deal with Amazon – the same corporation criticised by MPs for tax avoidance.

However, Wright's tenure has also spanned a number of major problems with some of the department's flagship IT programmes. For example, its £334.48m Making Tax Digital project was flagged as amber/red by the Infrastructure Projects Authority, meaning successful delivery is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas.

It was given the rating in September last year due to challenges in delivering functionality around its VAT pilot from mid-October 2018.

Meanwhile, HMRC's £226.33m Customs Declaration Service (CDS), responsible for delivering exports and imports processing, was also flagged as amber/red due to IT testing issues.

CDS will replace the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight service. However, concerns about the project have been repeatedly raised due to the tight deadline imposed by Brexit – currently expected to take place on 31 October this year.

In a statement, Wright said: "I am so proud of all that we have achieved in my two years with HMRC. The digital transformation we have introduced and the new ways of working we have championed have built a solid foundation on which to continue, for both our colleagues and the customers we serve."

Permanent secretary Jonathan Thompson, who is also leaving the department, said: "I am very grateful to Jacky for her skills, expertise and leadership over the last two years. Jacky has been a superb leader, transforming our approach to technology, data and digital services. They have been a fundamental part of the changes we have delivered for colleagues and customers.

He added the department is "stronger and more forward-focused" as a result of her work. "I would like to thank her for her massive contribution and wish her well in her return to Microsoft. We will announce succession plans before Jacky leaves in October." ®

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