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CSA boss falls on sword over £456m IT system fiasco

EDS: 'badly designed, badly developed, badly tested, badly implemented'

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The boss of the Child Support Agency has been forced out by the abject failure of its computer system supplied by EDS.

Doug Smith, chief executive of the CSA, left his post yesterday but insisted to MPs that the situation would have even worse but for the actions he has taken. He said senior management had done their best to shield clients from the worst impact of the failed system. The CSA has paid £456m for a system which is still not working. Work and pensions secretary Alan Johnson said he would take a final decision on whether to keep the system in place or chuck it out within the next few weeks. The system should deal with child support payments made by absent parents.

Johnson said the system was: "improving to the degree that makes it difficult to decide whether to use the nuclear option" but it was "not working well enough frankly to discount that", according to the FT. The system should have been up and running last April, that date has now been pushed back to spring next year.

In an internal EDS document, revealed yesterday to a House of Commons Select Committee, the firm described the system as "badly designed, badly developed, badly tested, badly implemented".

Problems include difficulties moving cases from the old system to the new one - 750,000 cases are still on the old system. Waiting times are now nearer five months than the agency target of six weeks. Back in April, MPs heard that the cost of processing each application was 20 per cent higher than under the old system.

Sir Archy Kirkwood, chair of the committee, said it was wrong to blame EDS alone. He said: "This is a systematic, chronic failure of management across the agency.", according to the FT. ®

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