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The Ministry of Defence wasted £30 million of taxpayers' money on two bespoke computer systems, abandoned because they failed to work, for the RAF, Army and Navy. Some systems were replaced by off-the-shelf alternatives costing £1.3 million, the National Audit Office reveals. Dud projects included The Common User Data System developed by GEC Plessey Telecommunications intended to replace teleprinter systems with 500 terminals at 13 sites had a tendency to stop working and was abandoned at a cost of £21 million. The system will be replaced later this year with an off-the-shelf PC-based tri-service (Army, Navy and RAF) package called Automatic Message Switch and Communications Centre Replacement Programme. The Pay Replacement System developed in-house at the Royal Navy for pay and pensions, expected to cost £18.9 million, saw costs over-run by 217 per cent in one year and was abandoned at the cost of £8.7 million to the taxpayer. Policy change to tri-service systems led to a combined Pay Delivery System. To add to insult to injury, a civil servant at the Army Personnel Centre in Glasgow has allegedly paid "one-off payments" into his account, using Army Personnel records in the pensions database. Auditor General Sir John Bourn said in a statement: "In 1998-99 the Ministry of Defence once again failed to keep their spending within the limits set by Parliament. And the loss of public funds through abortive expenditure on IT projects is clearly a cause for concern." A Spokesman for the MOD said it had learnt its lessons from these projects. "Changes have been made to reduce the risk. We have a number of successful IT projects and a procurement plan for all defence equipment with an emphasis on our suppliers and ourselves to overcome the problems with these two projects." ®

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