Feeds

Cash woes hold back National Insurance IT improvements

Old-school data storage slows service

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine
Activists told NOT to snap pics of staff at the concrete doughnut
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Redmond resists order to hand over overseas email
Court wanted peek as related to US investigation
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.