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Transport Dept's answer to embarrassing, cancelled IT projects?

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The Department of Transport has maintained a clean sheet on wasteful and abortive IT projects, by opting not to record any such SNAFUs.

Opposition MPs have been making a sport of asking the ToryDem government for details of messed up IT projects - often disingenuously given it was the previous Labour government that initiated the projects.

Peter Wishart, for the SNP, had asked the Secretary of State for Transport "which IT contracts awarded by his Department in each of the last five years have been abandoned; and what the monetary value of each such contract was".

Norman Baker, LibDem MP for Lewes, and a minister in the Transport Department replied: "No such cases have been recorded centrally. However, a full review of all IT contracts, in order to provide a complete answer, would incur disproportionate cost."

But, this should not be taken as an indication that the department has a clean sheet on successfully running IT projects.

Back in 2008, Public Accounts Committee reported that "The Department for Transport (DfT) planned and implemented its shared corporate services project with stupendous incompetence".

It went on: "The underlying computer system was inadequately procured and tested, resulting in an unstable setup when it was switched on. DfT staff do not trust the system which is hardly surprising when we hear that on occasion it took to issuing messages in German."

Not that this is at odds with Baker's answer yesterday. If the department is pushing on with the system, no matter how bloody-mindedly, there is clearly no need to record it as an expensive abandoned project.

And if failures are not recorded centrally when they are abandoned, how is anyone to know? Well, they could always turn to the internet, where they might find that in the year to March the department scrapped £15.4m worth of IT projects ahead of their completion. And the source of that information? A Parliamentary answer. ®

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