Universal Credit failures mean 2014 target will be missed
Management of Universal Credit has been “alarmingly weak”, the Public Accounts Committee has warned, adding that much of the money spent on IT development will have to be written off.
The programme will not hit its target roll-out to 184,000 claimants by April 2014, it added. The committee took evidence from the DWP, the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority and the Treasury.
The new report criticises “extraordinarily poor” management of the programme, characterised by a failure to understand the nature and scale of the task, as well as a failure to intervene promptly when problems arose.
The DWP team has become “isolated and defensive”, the PAC said, and new governance arrangements are needed to provide oversight of progress. The DWP must ensure comprehensive, relevant and clear information is used to assess progress on UC, suitable payment controls must be implemented and a clear strategy for IT developed.
The Major Projects Authority should also be given stronger powers to monitor and intervene with the programme, MPs recommended.
PAC chair Margaret Hodge MP said: “The failure to develop a comprehensive plan has led to extensive delay and the waste of a yet to be determined amount of public money. £425m has been spent so far on the programme. It is likely that much of this, including at least £140m worth of IT assets, will now have to be written off.
“Pressure to deliver a programme of this magnitude within such an ambitious timescale created a fortress culture where only good news was reported and problems were denied. We believe strongly that meeting any specific timetable from now on is less important than delivering the programme successfully.
“There has been a shocking absence of control over suppliers, with the Department failing to implement the most basic procedures for monitoring and authorising expenditure. In some cases multi-million pound orders were approved by secretarial staff. Individual payments could not even be linked to particular pieces of work that had been delivered.
“The Department will have to speed up the later stages of the programme if it is to meet the 2017 completion date but that will pose new risks.”
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