Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Learning Money


Many years ago, long before we'd all discovered skilled and dependable Polish decorators, Tyler hired a recommended and keenly priced British artisan to paint the outside of The Towers. Unfortunately, Tyler was young and naive and made the serious mistake of paying a third of the estimate upfront. It was, the artisan explained, necessary so he could purchase all necessary materials etc.

Tyler later discovered the real name of such payments is "learning money". You hand over the money, and then spend the next six months cowboy chasing. Yes, of course you're sorry to hear his van has been nicked/he's dislocated his back/his ladder's caught fire/his wife's been diagnosed with a rare but fatal tropical disease/etc/etc but when the blanking blanking blank is he coming back to finish the blanking blanking work? Eventually you learn that the answer is never.

Learning money. You've paid so you never make that mistake again.

Unless, that is, unless you're The Simple Shopper. The £175bn pa Shopper may be far and away Britain's biggest, but he's a very very slow learner.

As we've blogged before, the NHS has made upfront payments to at least one of its Supercomputer contractors, iSoft. And iSoft has dislocated not just its back, but its entire business.

The firm- a vital software supplier to the Supercomputer- has been in serious financial trouble for at least a year. And just like our cowboy painter, having booked its advance payments it's had Big Problems actually delivering the work.

It's under the financial cosh, and desperately needs more working capital. Unfortunately, as we now learn, the latest attempt at corporate rescue has been blocked by one of the other NPfIT suppliers (CSC).

"Many analysts believe no alternative rescue bidder is likely to emerge, leaving a refinancing deal as iSoft's only other hope of survival. If iSoft directors believe there is no possibility of securing the required cash they will be forced to review whether the business is a going concern."

Which would be extremely serious news for the Supercomputer:

"Should iSoft collapse into administration and alternative software suppliers be appointed, it could set back NPfIT by more than a year. The programme is already two years behind schedule."

We all know that the horrendous no-hope top-down Supercomputer should be scrapped forthwith and the funds redirected for use at local level (see this blog). But I have a horrible feeling we taxpayers may be about to stump up another huge dollop of learning money.

So...er... where's the learning?

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