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DWP IT projects bust budget by £391m

Buys UK.gov 14 extra years to finish them

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IT projects in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are running almost £400m over-budget and a total of more than 14 years late, the government has disclosed.

In written parliamentary answers, disabled people minister Jonathan Shaw said the Central Payments System, commissioned to make benefits payments more efficient, would cost almost exactly twice its original £90m estimate. Work on the system will be completed in December 2011, he added, making it more than five years behind schedule.

Government estimates before work began said DWP IT projects should have cost £865m altogether. On current estimates they will cost £1.26bn.

The largest single project, another efficiency upgrade called the Pensions Transformation Project, will see the largest overspend of £169m. The government said this was after "significant changes in phased implementation plans were approved to reduce the risk to operational delivery and customer service".

Shaw said: "Overall, the Department has a very strong track record in delivering major and complex change involving IT, of which the successful introduction of the employment and support allowance is the most recent example. But we are always seeking to improve our project management and governance processes."

Shaw added that "in the vast majority of cases" the costs of running DWP IT systems once in place is outweighed by the financial benefits they generate.

DWP's slowness in implementing IT upgrades was criticised by the Public Accounts Committee last summer as contributing to the taxpayer losses from benefit fraud.

The figures Shaw gave to parliament can be found here and here. ®

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