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E-government is working for DVLA

A functioning government IT project? Surely not.

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A report from the National Audit Office (NAO) on the use of technology by UK vehicle licensing agencies has found that rare beast - a working government IT project.

It's worth noting though that data security was not part of the government spending watchdog's brief this time.

The NAO looked at six services from three agencies which completed 12.6 million electronic transactions in 2006-2007.

These vary from quite mature services, like booking a driving test, to services such as applying for a provisional license which are quite new and were launched without much marketing.

The NAO found the use of new technology delivered high levels of public satisfaction, reduced delivery times for services, made transactions easier for consumers, and provided extra services - such as the ability to check your driver records.

The introduction of such services has also led to significant savings, the NAO found. The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency got rid of 58 staff and saved £1.4m a year from April 2007. The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) reduced call centres dealing with booking driving tests from two to one. The DSA now has instant access to test results for every test centre and examiner meaning it can more effectively check their performance.

The NAO recommended the DVLA continue its evalution of using email instead of letters to remind people to pay their car tax, and research into whether there is a case to stop using paper tax discs entirely.

The NAO noted the batch of data security problems disclosed by the DVLA on in December 2007 and said it would revisit its conclusions if necessary.

It said "Data security falls out outside the scope of this report, and was therefore not part of our investigation."

The agencies' "customers" will no doubt be comforted to know the front end of the systems work nicely, whatever happens out the back.

The Liberal Democrats said the government needed to improve its data protection policies if it wanted to encourage more people to use online services. ®

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