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DWP shaves £50m off major projects

Costs drop 3.1%

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The Department for Work and Pensions has cut 3.1 per cent from the cost of nine of its largest IT programmes since March.

The nine projects now have total estimated costs of £1.56bn, £50m less than the £1.61bn when the department last reported their budgets in May. However, that still leaves them 17.9 per cent above their original planned total costs of £1.33bn.

The information comes from a comparison of data provided in parliamentary written answers to Conservative shadow treasury minister Mark Hoban on 20 November 2008 and to Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor Vincent Cable on 5 March. The nine projects were included in both responses, which listed the department's major IT projects, including current estimated cost and finish date.

The savings have been produced mainly by a £40m cut in the budget of the DWP Change Programme to £246m. It includes a number of initiatives to improve the department's efficiency and access to information, and the Pension Reform Delivery Programme, which has had its budget reduced by £36m to £118m.

Some of these savings have been swallowed by a £24m increase in the cost of the Central Payments System to £177m. The project has also been delayed by a further year - in March the deadline was December 2010 and it is now December 2011.

This means the system is five years late and will cost nearly double its original budget. When it started in April 2004 the project was scheduled to finish in October 2006 and cost £90m.

Other projects whose end dates have changed since March include the Document Repository Service, from November 2008 to March 2009, although the written answer from DWP minister Jonathan Shaw said the new date was simply due to November being the go live date – which was met – and March being the "end project review" date.

He said the same reason accounted for an apparent change in the completion date of the Pensions Reform Delivery Programme, from April 2010 to December that year.

The £88m Customer Information System also moved from a February 2008 completion to a phased implementation from March to December this year. Shaw said this approach was adopted to minimise risks. The roll out ended in June, the final technical release took place in October and the end project review is timed for December.

The system's cost fell by £1m to £88m – although it was originally meant to cost £40m and to finish in September 2007.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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