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Yet another government IT cock-up

This time for £1.6 billion. NAO is not amused

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Oh dear, oh dear. The National Audit Office has slammed the government for wasting £1.6 billion on a computer system intended to crack down on benefit fraud. Accusing it of "organisational myopia", the NAO quoted rushed planning, extremely tight deadlines and lack of leadership/responsibility as the main reasons behind the system's scrapping.

The plan was that claimants would be issued with a swipe card containing all their personal details. These cards could then be used in every post office in the UK. The system would allow claims to be carefully followed and would stoke new life into rural post offices.

However, because of continuous arguments, glitches and miscommunication, the Treasury decided to cut its losses and scrap the whole scheme in May last year (it was initially conceived in 1996). The NAO listed the losses as follows:


  • DSS: £127 million in developing the system
  • DSS: £300 million working out alternatives to the system
  • Post Office: £571 million to cover losses
  • ICL: £180 million for equipment provided
  • Post Office: £480 million on a new system

Head of the NAO Sir John Bourn demanded that one person was put in charge in all future projects. He said the project was not impossible but had been ruined by constant argument between the DSS and the Post Office which both pursued their own agenda.

This waste of taxpayers' money is just the latest instalment in major IT cock-ups by the government. There was the £13 million disaster when the Passport Agency put in a new system which promptly crashed and caused holiday bedlam. The Inland Revenue lost five million tax records and its self-assessment plans have cost a fortune and just don't work - it is now talking to Internet banks about how to revamp it (God help us). The Ministry of Defence abandoned a £21 million system when it was realised the technology was out-of-date and ridiculously expensive. A new system for Air Traffic Control is years behind schedule and way over budget, as is a National Insurance system.

Doesn't exactly fill you with confidence doesn't it? ®

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