HM Revenue and Customs’ chief information officer Steve Lamey has been appointed as the organisation’s new chief operating officer.

Deepak Singh – currently responsible for portfolios within HMRC’s IT department - will become acting CIO.

Lamey became CIO for both the former Customs and Excise and Inland Revenue departments in October 2004, ahead of the merger that created HMRC in April 2005. The former British Gas CIO is the department’s highest paid civil servant, earning between £240,000 and £245,000 last year.

As CIO, Lamey has overseen huge changes – and faced major challenges as HMRC’s IT systems have come under fire, particularly in the wake of the tax credits fiasco.

Lamey arrived just after Capgemini secured the re-tendered 10-year Aspire IT contract, originally held by EDS. The change of suppliers was the first on such a scale in the UK public sector, and the contract was expanded again to include Customs’ contract with Fujitsu in 2005.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee praised the transition of services from EDS, noting that it was “completed successfully and on time”, with no major disruptions to services, although they criticised the escalation in value of Aspire to a total of £8.5bn.

HMRC has also successfully rolled out a single desktop environment to 100,000 users, integrating legacy systems from its two predecessor bodies, with the project – known as STRIDE – completed on time and within budget. The department has also been rolling out an £85m SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to handle the department’s finance, procurement and human resources.

But Lamey’s stint as CIO has also seen continuing criticism of the troubled tax credits system. The public accounts committee reported in May this year that HMRC had overpaid £5.8bn to claimants in the first three years of the tax credits regime. The design of the tax credits system had resulted in overpayments, but “there have also been unforeseen overpayments due to software errors”, the MPs found.

And in July, HMRC admitted there was “more to be done” after auditors revealed up to five million people could be paying the wrong income tax because of IT problems.

The department has resolved early problem s with online filing of tax returns, upgrading its infrastructure in 2005, after it was forced to give 14 days’ leeway to taxpayers who had filed on time but not received a receipt.

In February HMRC reported a 40% increase in the number of people filing self assessment tax returns online this year, with 2.9m returns handled successfully.

Deepak Singh, who will take on the CIO role at HMRC on an acting basis, joined the department from June 2006 from T-Mobile, where he was an executive vice-president responsible for IT strategy, governance, quality management and change management.

He has more than 20 years’ experience in the commercial sector and has worked for nPower, AstraZeneca, Jaguar Cars and Philips Electronics.