Feeds

Cash woes hold back National Insurance IT improvements

Old-school data storage slows service

Top three mobile application threats

A National Audit Office report says that limited money for IT is hampering improvements to the administration of National Insurance.

The report, published on 30 June, says that HM Revenue and Customs' Contributions Office, which maintains personal records on the National Insurance (NI) database, would like to make significant improvements but is constrained by a lack of funding.

"The selection criteria across HMRC for IT projects have become more stringent and there is no funding in 2010-11 for routine improvements," says the NAO's report on HMRC's use of resources to administer NI since 2006-07.

It says that although the Contributions Office makes extensive use of IT to carry out its work, it does not always have "up-to-date functionality".

One example given in the report is that Contributions Office staff have to type in the whole address on letters to the public because the IT system has no postcode-based search link. Key information sometimes has to be retrieved through searches of paper files and microfiches.

These processes are more time-consuming and less successful than an electronic search, but HMRC will only fund IT improvements if they are related to the implementation of legislation.

"Although there are presently very limited funds available for major IT enhancements, HMRC should consider how individual administrative procedures might undergo a more fundamental change over the longer term to achieve optimum efficiency," the report recommends.

"It should also consider the opportunities for reducing incorrect or incomplete incoming data and for exerting greater control of how work is received, with special attention to further reducing the use of more costly paper based processes."

The document also provides an update on the fluctuating service provided by NI telephone helplines since its previous report in January.

In 2007‑08, the department answered 96 per cent of calls on NI matters compared with 61 per cent in 2008-09, well below industry best practice benchmarks. This increased in 2009-10, but only to 73 per cent.

However, the quality of advice provided to callers by the National Insurance contact centre was found to have exceeded its target performance in recent years. In 2009-10 96.5 per cent of calls met the standard of advice required and followed security procedures, compared with a target performance of 89 per cent.

The report says this is partly due to the "considerable experience" of contact centre staff.

Chris Pennell, principal analyst at Kable, said: "HMRC is caught between a rock and a hard place. It cannot justify extra funding for ICT unless it can deliver savings or improved productivity, but it is fast reaching the apogee of what can be achieved through improvements to working practices alone.

"Certainly, without further investment into management reporting and data processing tools, the department will struggle to deliver on improvements to revenue collection and tackling tax evasion."

This article was originally published at Kable.

Kable's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Whoever you vote for, Google gets in
Report uncovers giant octopus squid of lobbying influence
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.