By T0ny Collins
Labour MP Frank Field asked what recent estimate has been made of the cost of the IT system for universal credit in each sub-category of expenditure.
Mark Hoban, who became a minister at the Department for Work and Pensions this month, replied on 18 September 2012 that IT investment costs over SR10 are estimated at £638m and include IT development, associated integration with other systems and infrastructure requirements.
The spend on design, development and software – at current estimates – is £492m. That sounds like a worthwhile investment from the point of view of at least one of the DWP’s main Universal Credit IT suppliers Accenture. Is it cheap, though, for a complex agile project?
Some have asked it before – indeed on this blog – and we ask again: To what extent is Universal Credit a genuinely agile project?
And with many hundreds of millions of pounds at stake, shouldn’t Parliament and taxpayers be allowed to view independent progress reports on the state of the project? No says the DWP.
Private Eye has picked up on the DWP’s rejection of our FOI request. [Thank you to Dave Orr for spotting the article]. This is from Private Eye’s latest issue:
“Nearly two years ago Eye 1276 reported with concern how the then chief executive of HM Revenue and Customs had told a committee of MPs that, when it came to delivering universal credits, the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith had a ‘big hard dependency’ on HMRC’s IT systems.
“Now critics from all sides are wondering whether Whitehall’s imperfect IT systems can be linked up… Labour’s Liam Byrne has claimed the scheme is ‘late and over budget’. Duncan Smith flatly denies this, but his department has refused freedom of information requests from IT campaigner Tony Collins for progress reports. Releasing them would ‘cause inappropriate concern’ apparently. Hardly reassuring.
“PS: Byrne’s credibility as scrutineer of IT is not helped by having been the health minister who in 2006 insisted that the NHS’s National Programme for IT was ‘broadly on track’ when it couldn’t have been further off track…”
Universal Credit IT – current cost estimates:
|Design and development||£441m|
|Changes to dependent systems||£14m|