Session 2003-04 PN 27
GOVERNMENT FAILS TO ADDRESS IT CONCERNS - WORK AND PENSIONS COMMITTEE
The Department for Work and Pensions fails to address the spirit and letter of many of the Committee's recommendations.
1) The Work and Pensions Select Committee today publishes the Government's response to its major report into why many IT projects in the public sector become defective, waste large sums of taxpayers' money and cause distress to thousands of clients. The Committee's report was published in July.
2) According to the Work and Pensions Committee, the Government response to its report fails to address fully a number of the key recommendations. For example, the Committee recommended that more information should be provided to Parliament and made clear that it was calling for greater openness from Government, especially from the Department for Work and Pensions. While the Government has agreed to put more contract information into the public domain, the Committee is profoundly dissatisfied with its response on recommendations such as publishing business cases, gateway reviews and implementation assessments for IT projects. The amount of information made available to Parliament should not be limited to that which the Government will be legally obliged to provide under the Freedom of Information Act. Commercial confidentiality is being used to prevent Parliament from gaining access to key information about IT projects. The Committee reaffirms its recommendation that Parliament requires much more information before, during and after implementation, if it is to scrutinise IT projects effectively.
3) The Government's response also fails to engage fully with a number of other specific recommendations. In the case of the IT system used by the Child Support Agency, the Committee called for the Government to set out its contingency plans, including various options, in particular the abandonment of the CS2 system, if the system is not fully operational by 1 December 2004. The Department's response did not address the issue of contingency plans, and omitted any mention of the dates explicitly recommended by the Committee.
4) On a more positive note, the Department has agreed to supply some details on the change requests made to the CSA system. The Department has also agreed to review and evaluate all aspect of the CSA system, although the Government's response fails to commit to any details and does not indicate whether the full review would be published.
5) Commenting on the Government's response, Committee Chairman, Sir Archy Kirkwood MP, said:
"Overall, we are very dissatisfied with the Government's response. The Government's record on IT projects needs to get better. We produced a well-argued report into how the Government's record on IT projects could be improved. Our report was widely recognised throughout the media and industry as a solid piece of work with a set of impressive recommendations. However, we have received a response from the Department that all too often does not fully engage with the letter or spirit of the report's recommendations. In particular, the Committee sets out an overwhelming case why Parliament and the public require more detailed information about IT projects, including the business case. But instead of addressing the Committee's concern, the Department defends its secretive approach on grounds of commercial confidentiality and says that it will make information available in the context of the Freedom of Information Act. This isn't good enough.
"We will not let the matter rest here. The Committee will continue to press the Department, and will keep open its options for an independent review of projects, along the lines of the NATS audit."
Notes for Editors:
1. The Work and Pensions Committee published its report (DWP's management of Information Technology Projects: Making IT Deliver for DWP Customers) in July 2004.
2. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is undertaking a massive modernisation programme, which depends critically upon IT projects being implemented successfully. Since 2001 the DWP has spent some £4.25 billion on IT projects.
3. Expenditure on IT projects in the UK public sector in 2003/4 is estimated to be in excess of £12.4 billion
4. Committee Chairman, Sir Archy Kirkwood MP. Media contact details are as follows:
Luke Robinson, Select Committee Media Officer
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