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£300m Ministry of Defence mess

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The government has added to its litany of computer system cock-ups with a £300 million system at the Ministry of Defence which has had to be overhauled.

The system is supposed to handle to pay, pension and HR services for all staff in the armed forces and was contracted out to EDS on a 12-year contract by the then newly formed Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency.

However, the grand plan to merge the three different systems for the army, navy and air force has proved too tricky and EDS has been asked to "reconstruct" its contract.

As ever, it is one-man public sector IT watchdog Tony Collins from Computer Weekly that has dragged comments out the government. The whole scheme "was not as successful" as it could have been, said deputy chief of defence staff, Sir Malcolm Pledger. Government shorthand for "a complete disaster".

"There was particular naivety on the transfer of risk," Malcolm told the magazine. "The MoD wanted improved services within the original contract price but EDS needed further funding to deliver the improved information systems. The result is contractual stalemate."

The situation is now sorted out but apparently at one point it looked as though all wages were going to be delayed.

What makes the IT mess all the more ridiculous is that the pay system for the Royal Navy was itself a complete failure - it came in at 217 per cent over budget and was abandoned after just one year at a cost of £8.7 million.

This cock-up is just the latest in an exhausting list of government IT-project disasters. And it looks as though EDS has now overtaken Siemens in the contractor stakes.

Let's try to recall them all (apologies if we omit any). Er, eight of the 11 Home Office IT projects in recent years are either "severely delayed or severely over budget". Then there was the Passport Agency (Siemens), Immigration (Siemens), tax self-assessment (EDS), the Post Office (ICL), National Insurance (Andersen) and the Prison Service.

It'll all be alright though. Because the government has promised us that all government services will be online by 2005. ®

A (hopefully) complete list of government IT cock-ups

Home Office computer system slammed by report
Govt scraps £80m computer system
Govt to run all IT projects through Treasury watchdog
Yet another government IT cock-up
Inland Revenue's pathetic Net effort gets worse
Inland Revenue joins Internet hall of shame
Gov't tries to make IT projects run on time
IT failures not all our fault, says Blair govt
MOD blows £30m on junk projects
Computer delays student loan payouts

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