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Universal Credit CRISIS: Up to £200m in IT spend WASTED – NAO

Get ready for a write-off, say auditors

Downing Street road sign

Around £219m in IT investments in the much-maligned Universal Credit programme may be written off, a National Audit Office report has revealed today.

To date, £344m in IT investment has been sunk into the programme, but just £125m of those assets are currently in use. The NAO revealed the department has written off a further £61m in IT that has “no credible way to integrate with the digital service”. It said other systems are also under "review".

The report revealed that the system is also dependent on the ability of the troubled "Verify" identity assurance system to perform adequately. Labour has today called for that system to be reviewed.

It said: "The department is not yet able to start testing identity assurance security systems critical to trials in 2015. These systems depend on the successful development of the Government Digital Service’s new GOV.UK Verify service."

The transfer of over 1 million tax credit claimants on to Universal Credit by April 2016 has also been delayed until 2019 due to the "significant operational risks" of meeting that deadline.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: "It is now vital that the Department quickly establish clear goals for delivering the programme, in terms of cost, time and functionality, against which it can be held to account."

Yesterday Public Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge told MPs there are "huge risks" with the value for money of the project and "substantial potential for waste of taxpayers’ money".

She said: "If there are further delays in the implementation of the digital programme, taxpayers will have to continue to pay for the expensive, mainly manually operated live service." ®

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