Feeds

Cash woes hold back National Insurance IT improvements

Old-school data storage slows service

Website security in corporate America

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.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Bono: Apple will sort out monetising music where the labels failed
Remastered so hard it would be difficult or impossible to master it again
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.