The government has no understanding of the millennium problem and is being poorly advised on how to resolve it, according to the head of the government-appointed body in charge of raising awareness of the issue.
Robin Guernier, executive director of Taskforce 2000, unleashed the slating attack as business chiefs on both sides of the Atlantic petitioned their governments to take urgent action to avoid a computer crisis.
?My problem is this,? said Guernier. ?I am quite certain that the millennium bug is not understood at senior government level. What is worse is that they think they understand it, and they are receiving lousy advice.?
The criticism came as more than 60 senior executives jointly issued a statement to the UK, US and Canadian prime ministers, appealing for them to deal with the millennium bug as a top priority in the time that remains before the turn of the century.
Simon Webley, director of the British North American Committee (BNAC), under whose banner the signatories the protest was made, agreed that the UK and north American governments' handling of the issue must change. ?We need a more open system. We need the government to admit that it is having problems dealing with compliance.?
Doing this, he said, would heighten understanding of the problem and spur progress towards meeting the deadline. Speaking for industry as a whole, he added: ?We are doing our best to achieve compliance in our systems, but we want the government to come clean on theirs.?
Many millennium specialists agree that the UK government needs to do more. ?The government needs to begin an in-depth audit of all central systems,? said Clifford Smith, UK general manager of Y2K specialists, Millennia III. ?This needs to be done from the top down and should include some sort of supply chain mapping that leaves no stone unturned.?
Guernier, who last week warned the prime minister that the government was ?getting it wrong? on the millennium bug, backed up this approach. ?All the big companies are doing it right, prioritising like mad from the top down so that they are only doing what actually needs doing.?
He claims that, if the government gets its act together now, most central systems will be compliant by 2000, adding: ?If we get it right in the UK it will be enormously to the advantage of the country as a whole, as well as to the government.?
A spokesperson at the Department for Trade and Industry said that the government was completely aware of the Year 2000 issue, and was doing all it could to resolve it in both the private and the public sectors.
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