Big fat doubt hovers over UK.gov's Making Tax Digital, customs declaration IT projects

Plus: Delivery on 9 more projects at 'major risk'

A raft of major government IT projects are in serious trouble, including flagship programmes such as HMRC's Making Tax Digital and its Customs Declaration Service.

The Infrastructure Projects Authority's annual report today (PDF) flagged nine government ICT projects as amber/red, meaning successful delivery is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas.

The Cabinet's Office's digital identity project, Verify, was the only programme to be rated red – where successful delivery of the project appears to be completely unachievable – as The Register exclusively revealed this morning.

Out of 133 projects with a whole life cost of £442bn, just 27 projects, collectively worth £10bn, were classified as ICT projects. However, the report noted that many projects in other categories had significant digital components.

For example, the Home Office's troubled £5bn Emergency Services Mobile Communication project was also rated as amber/red, but classified as an infrastructure project.

According to the report, the £334.48m Making Tax Digital programme was given the rating in September last year due to challenges in delivering functionality around its VAT pilot from mid-October 2018.

"Plans were on schedule but additional complexity and risk was introduced by the requirement to prepare in parallel for postponed VAT accounting in the event of exiting the EU without a deal," it said.

Earlier this month The Register reported that businesses were struggling to sign up to HMRC's new online VAT filing system.

The taxman's £226.33m Customs Declaration Service, responsible for delivering exports and imports processing, was also flagged as amber/red due to IT testing issues.

CDS will replace the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight service (CHIEF), however concerns about the project have been repeatedly raised due to the tight deadline imposed by Brexit – currently expected to take place on 31 October this year.

Meanwhile, the report revealed a refreshed business case was approved in March 2019 for the Ministry of Justice's £398.84m Common Platform for the criminal justice system. The Register has documented a series of problems with the programme, with a number of senior techies having recently left.

Other IT projects categorised as amber/red by the report included:

  • the Home Office's £290.53m move to an updated Enterprise Resource Planning tool and a common shared service model, which it has called "Metis";
  • the Home Office's £469.4m National Law Enforcement Data Programme, to replace the current Police National Computer (PNC) and Police National Database (PND) systems;
  • the Department of Health and Social Care's (DHSC) £392.76m Health and Social Care Network, intended to support organisations and services' moves to internet and cloud-based architectures;
  • the DHSC's £129.5m IT Infrastructure Sourcing Programme, replacing the infrastructure managed service contract currently provided by Capita;
  • the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) Future Beyond Line of Sight, meant to maintain the current satellite communications network and develop successor capability (cost exempt due to commercial interests); and
  • the MoD's New Style of Information Technology (base), whose mission was to "deliver a cost-effective and modern style of IT across the Defence estate" (also cost exempt).

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