Centrica exec takes over as HMRC data chief
The former digital services director at energy group Centrica has joined HMRC as the tax department’s chief digital and information officer (CDIO).
Digital transformation has been a big priority on HMRC’s organisational agenda ever since the government earmarked £1.8bn to underwrite the Making Tax Digital project back in 2016. When he takes up his new position on 14 September, Rehal will have responsibility for a £1bn budget with around £300m set aside for further IT changes.
With intense parliamentary and professional interest in the transformation project, the CDIO role has been occupied by five different people in five years. The first CDIO Mike Dearnley left at the end of his contract in 2016 and was succeeded by an interim replacement, Mike Potter.
Microsoft executive Jacky Wright was seconded to the role for two years and was followed in November 2019 by another interim replacement, Mark Denney. In April this year, he found himself responsible for overseeing a completely new system to administer the coronavirus job support scheme.
Just three weeks after that project was delivered, HMRC was advertising again for a replacement. Denney was involved in the executive search for his successor and told the New Statesman: “We are looking for someone who has been an enterprise level CIO, who has the attributes to get the best out of the civil service and wants a career of five-years plus.”
In its official announcement of his appointment, HMRC described Rehal as a “senior technology and data executive” with experience leading change in areas such as big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and agile development methods.
During his nine years with British Gas/Centrica, Rehal oversaw the migration of more than 200 applications and 9pb (petabytes) of data to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, which he described as “the engine by which we drive everything: tariffs and pricing, our marketing, our insight, our campaign management through to things we're trying to do to improve our customers lives”.
HMRC is clearly hoping Rehal can repeat his success within a government department. In the CDIO role, he is going to have to wean the department off its mainframe legacy systems to a new, cloud-based environment that will be able to handle income tax and VAT online, alongside as yet unspecified systems to handle all the other types of tax that funnel through HMRC’s creaking technology infrastructure.
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