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MPs have revealed that the Department for Transport's permanent secretary was unaware it had paid £25m to an IT company for work on the Transport Direct project.

The House of Commons Transport Committee's annual 2005 report into the Department for Transport (DfT) said permanent secretary David Rowlands "seemed unaware that almost £25m had been paid to Atos Origin IT Services for DfT's electronic information system".

The electronic system contains a searchable public transport route finder database and includes live travel information.

"We are very concerned that the department seemed not to know the details of so large a payment," said MPs.

The revelation has led the committee to launch further investigations into the operations of the DfT's Driver and Vehicle Operator (DVO) group of agencies and the Highway Agency. The committee has called on the government to provide full details of the procurement of Transport Direct, to be included in its report expected in "due course."

The annual report, released on 3 May, also found the DfT's electronic car tax scheme was facing significant delays. The committee blamed the delay on the schedule for the MoT computerisation project falling behind by a "number of years".

The DfT claimed some 200,000 drivers used the online scheme to tax vehicles in 2005 and that it was due to be extended in 2005 and 2006 to include older vehicles. But the committee also heard from the department that the MoT project was delayed "for further stringent testing". The system is now live in all 19,500 garages in the UK, but there is still some concern over elements of its performance.

Although welcoming the move to increase the electronic delivery of the department's services, the committee said: "Government's overall success in managing computerisation projects is notorious; frequently promise is oversold, delivery proves disappointing, and schedules for completion are often not worth the paper they are written on."

DfT refused to comment on the matter. A spokesperson told Government Computing News it did not want to "pre-empt" a response to the committee.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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