Feeds

UK taxpayers lose billions to errors, fraud and crap IT

Ill-judged re-orgs

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Large-scale errors and fraud in the benefits system cost the taxpayers an estimated £3bn in 2003-04, according to report from the Government's Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Problems highlighted included customer and official errors, a complex benefits system and an ill judged IT re-organisation.

The recent move to form Jobcentre Plus and the Pension Service led to an increase in the level of errors by officials, says the report into the Department for Work and Pension (DWP) run system. Staff moving into unfamiliar roles and the introduction of new methods of working and IT systems led to a rise in mistakes, which could have been combated with a comprehensive programme of training and support for staff, says the report.

The DWP also needs to be able to retrieve customer records without "undue effort". The Department has taken steps to improve document storage and retrieval, but improvements are still needed to improve on the 1.3 per cent not being found. Computer logging of all new and existing files will help improve this figure, say the PAC.

Overpayments, which totalled £1.1bn by March 2004, are another stumbling block. With no satisfactory audit trail, not all benefit overpayments had been identified, some had been identified but not referred for recovery action, while others were awaiting input into the recovery systems.

Of the estimated £9bn overpaid on the last three years, only £550m has been recovered. The Department should give priority to increasing the rate at which debts are recognised and recorded, says the report, which calls on the DWP to tighten local office procedures so that all benefit overpayments are identified at source. New IT systems will also help, it adds. The DWP expect to complete the migration of existing data on debt to a new debt management system by September 2005, and believe in around two years' time it will have made substantial progress in improving the management of debt.

The PAC acknowledge that some progress has been made with fraud but it adds that there has been little change in levels of customer error, mainly because of the complexity of the benefits system. The report points out that the wholesale simplification of the benefits system would require major changes in policy, which could result in large increases in expenditure. Despite this, the Department has simplified the rules for some benefits such as Housing Benefit and Pension Credit, and should extend these efforts to other benefits. Rules, systems and processes should be made easier to understand for both staff and customers, say the PAC.

The report is here (403kb - PDF)

Copyright © eGov monitor Weekly

eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
UK.gov's Open Source switch WON'T get rid of Microsoft, y'know
What do you mean, we've ditched Redmond in favour of IBM?!
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.