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£8 BILLION is locked into UK.gov's failing IT schemes, El Reg analysis reveals

Shared services centres and 'tower' contracts on the ropes

editorial only image of Whitehall. Pic Daniel Gale/Shutterstock
Whitehall. Pic: Shutterstock

The UK government has £8bn locked into IT contracts which are at high risk of failure, according to an analysis of the Infrastructure Project Authority's accounts by The Register.

Of 143 major projects representing £405bn of government spending, The Register identified 19 IT projects that were flagged as “red” or “amber/red” in the Infrastructure and Projects Authority's annual report.

That means delivery is unachievable or highly unlikely.

Projects given the highest red risk rating included the Department for Transport's £222m move to the Cabinet Office's shared service centre, run by IT provider arvato, along with the Home Office's £185m project to migrate from its Oracle ERP to the shared services project.

Both departments noted the red status reflects problems with the “go live” date in the cross-government programmes and the increased costs of having to run existing systems for an extended period of time.

That is, perhaps, unsurprising, as the chief exec of the civil service, John Manzoni, named the two shared services centre projects as one of the three major programmes in government keeping him up at night.

The Ministry of Justice's £411.6m electronic tagging programme was also flagged as “red” by the body.

Some of the other projects rated as “amber/red” include the Home Office's £307m Digital Services at the Border programme, intended to " deliver a new generation of Border Security Systems"; and HMRC's £600m programme to overhaul its tax systems.

Efforts by both the Home Office and Ministry of Justice respectively to break up their legacy contracts by moving to a "tower model" were also rated as being at high risk of failure.

The Home Office said of its £369.5m Technology Platforms for Tomorrow: "The timescale pressure has been reduced by the identification of a ‘handover period’ with the incumbent supplier's contracts, though the time taken to identify possible solutions based on User Research with the Government Digital Service (GDS) has eaten into this, and significant financial and solution / plan risks for the programme remain."

Meanwhile the MoJ described its £1.7bn Future IT Sourcing as "complex with elements being delivered at different points of the life cycle in sequence".

The Rural Payments Ageny's £215.88m IT system for Common Agricultural Policy payments is, not surprisingly, still rated as high risk after its disastrous failure last year.

But while the £8bn locked into failing government IT contracts is not to be sniffed at, that figure is significantly lower than the figure from last year.

That is mainly because the much-delayed £16bn Universal Credit programme received an improvement in its health rating this year of amber.

Of the 143 major projects, many will still require a large chunk of tech even if not specifically IT-related. The National Audit Office spending watchdog has warned that one third of the government's major projects due to be delivered over the next five years are on track to fail. It has also said that thousands of techies are needed to rescue failing projects. ®

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