The Channel logo

back to article Gov IT write-off: Universal Credit system flushes £34m down toilet

The UK's spending watchdog has scolded the Department for Work and Pensions for so far wasting £34m of taxpayer money on its botched attempt to implement a one-dole-to-rule-them-all IT system. In a stinging rebuke of the government's handling of Universal Credit, the National Audit Office concluded that the DWP, which is led by …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Peanuts

£34 million? Seems pretty trivial write off on a project of this scale - not a patch on the billions wasted on the NHS IT project.

7
0
Silver badge

Re: Peanuts

"Seems pretty trivial write off on a project of this scale - not a patch on the billions wasted on the NHS IT project."

That's because they've only just started, and they've only written off £34m of circa £425m spent to April. I've no doubt the 100 day review period is fully chargeable by the fat cat contractors, so the total to date will probably be around half a billion spent. As with NHS, FCS, or Nimrod, it isn't until they've spent billions they admit that things will never work.

3
0
Thumb Down

Re: Peanuts

But isn't it better to see this project being evaluated early enough to actually DO something about the cock-up instead of blindly carrying on while the losses mount?

Far be it for me to actually do something other than carp, but this looks like maybe there have been some lessons learned from the IT clusterfucks of the past......

1
0

Re: Peanuts

I suspect it was a cunning ploy to stop the new £1,000,000,000.00 cash grab that has just been made available for NHS Trusts to have a go at the single patient record. Isn't it time that Govt learnt that announcing a big number to score political brownie points, prior to business cases being written to support the viability of the projects is a very silly way to invest public money. Then again, when the CIO of UK Government was previously teaching IT at Eton it is hardly surprising IT procurement continues be a shambles.

1
0

Re: Peanuts

A quick fix of your post.

But isn't it better to see this project being evaluated early enough and then not actually DO something about the cock-up and blindly carrying on while the losses mount?

0
0
Bronze badge
Devil

Reshuffle off this mortal coil...

'Of course, it stopped short of suggesting a ministerial reshuffle as such a recommendation is outside of its remit. But one can't help but think that Duncan Smith will be the latest and most high-profile victim of the Universal Credit catastrophe.'

Bliss if it happens but if it didn't after he was found to have blatantly lied about his educational attainments and repeatedly 'misled' the country over the costs of fraud within the benefits system, it's not likely to happen just because he's flushed a large amount of public money down the pan.

On the other hand, if he IS booted out, let's hope he takes that other fraud, Lord Freud, with him.

13
1

Re: Reshuffle off this mortal coil...

My original thought when seeing the headline was IDS will be for the chop. It seems now though he's blaming the civil servants for a failure to correctly manage the project don't they all report to someone perhaps the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions?

Is that not then his responsibility and no one elses?

The universal credit was his baby from the start and if he did see problems two years ago and still went ahead then he should resign. Not bloody likely though at the moment he needs to line up a few more directorship's and board seats first.

5
0

Re: Reshuffle off this mortal coil...

"We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office."

Aesop, circa 600BC

12
0
Bronze badge
Mushroom

Risk Management?

where was it?

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Risk Management?

The Corporate Welfare Fairy is too busy dancing on its grave to answer.

You might as well ask why Voda are being let off their taxes again, while HMRC goes after itty-bitty IR35 micro-contractors like a pit bull with a chilli up its arse.

5
0

Advice

Unless they're wanting to shift the £34 million loss to £3.4 billion loss they'd better seek better advice than what Labour can offer going by their track record.

4
0
Silver badge

Re: Advice

"better advice than Labour can offer" actually.

At some point the "But the previous party were shit too!" argument stops working. Blair was a dick, doesn't make Cameron an excellent premier.

13
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Advice

" Blair was a dick, doesn't make Cameron an excellent premier." On the other hand both of them are a million times better than the twit who was PM in between. Aircraft carriers we can't afford, with stupid lock-in terms in the contracts, that just happen to be going to built by people who live in / near his constituency? Govt should've either cancelled the contracts and made Brown pay the charges, or kept them on and make him pay anyway. Then sued him for misconduct in public office.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Advice

Really? You think some financial bs is more important than starting a war and killing loads of people? You need some perspective and a little empathy.

0
1
Bronze badge

Re: Advice

You mean we should do something about those that landed us with 300-billion, and growing, PFI contracts ?

Like Thatcher and Major ?

Or maybe about the similar sized contracts given to private health providers to run hospitals/health services since the last general election, all tied to long contracts with onerous release terms ?

0
0

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein

4
0
Anonymous Coward

There's no evidence Einstein ever said that.

Misattribution: repeating the same quote over and over again attributing it to an incorrect source

But otherwise, agree completely :)

0
0

"The UK's spending watchdog has scolded the Department for Work and Pensions for so far wasting £34m of taxpayer money"

Scolded?

I thought they would be praised for wasting so little compared to other projects that ran over budget, failed, were crap etc...

1
0
Gold badge
Unhappy

"I thought they would be praised for wasting so little compared to other projects that ran over budget, failed, were crap etc..."

Do you really think this project has only wasted £34m?

Seior civil servants are quite adept at hiding both the size and the fact of failure.

8
0
Silver badge

Indeed

That is only the figure that has been written off. Wait until one or two years down the line, where the rest of the money that has been spunked on this attack on the poor is also written off when the project is cancelled. It's a seven-figure write-down at the moment, but who's tosay it won't end up being nine figures that are written off (read funnelled into contractor companies). I wonder how many directorships or other financial interests the vile IDS has with the suppliers?

1
0
Bronze badge

it's not wasted. It will be returned via contributions to the party.....

0
0
Happy

Well, yes. Obviously.

Government IT under the auspices of the DWP? Bound to happen, really.

The only question remaining is that of how many "Benefit scroungers" * could well have been served that £34m.

* I'm one (blind).

3
1

So how much 34 million?

How much on the NHS system? That was in the billions.

34 million is like arguing about swatting a mosquito when in the back ground there is a herd of rampaging elephants about to run right over you. Remember, its the mosquito that's the important thing.

Now for the real issues

Why is the DWP spending 5% of all the money it administers each year on itself? Any finance company would love a 5% per annum charge.

Why aren't the pension debts reported? Actually that's quite an easy one. 6.5 trillion appearing on the books would blow the ponzi scam wide open.

1
1
Silver badge

So how much 34 million?

It's a lot of money for those who will have to foot the bill eventually.

Knowing IDS it will be the fault of 'scroungers'.

7
0
Bronze badge

While I like you analogy, Mosquitos kill more people then Elephants…

2
0

Radio 4 Today broadcast

According to IDS his it was all the IT vendors fault as they did not understand what universal credit was.

Additionally all he did was say how the previous government stuffed things up, that was 3 years ago, you have been making your own mistakes for over 3 years, grow up

From my peripheral experience of the NHS disaster that's because the customer (DWP & Mr IDS) didn't know what they wanted and couldn't actually define what the system was supposed to do.

When they could define it then some empire building uncivil servant decided they wanted something else and the IT supplier was forced to implement frig thin to include these arbitrary changes.

Yeah the provider didn't understand the system because you move the goalposts every 20 minutes and the difference between what you need and what you want (a profusion of petty fiefdoms)

8
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Radio 4 Today broadcast

To be fair I doubt anybody has an end to end understanding of such complex systems which have been added to and bolted together over 30 years. Having worked on very large gov projects, I've seen flow diagrams just showing where data sits and they are like a pile of spaghetti.

Spot on with the decision making or lack of and the change of requirements every couple of days.

3
0

IDS

Heard him on the radio this morning and he said the report actually says everything is fine and anyway it was everybody else's fault. So that's OK then.

What a dick.

15
0
Bronze badge

I think Sebby makes the key point...

When the Government (and I don't just mean the current mob) seemingly having got themselves into a bit of a hole re current debts; are seemingly so desperate so as to squeeze the public that they go down to the level of penalising you for having an additional room in your house - but then themselves go a spunk another load of millions upon millions on these continued projects which end up as fuck up after fuck up you really do have to ask who really knows best, and indeed - how better to spend the best part of billions of pounds on helping the people who really need it.

They are a mob. Nothing more. A cabal of self serving wankers. Time for a change me thinks.

8
0
Silver badge

fixed this for you

penalising you for having an additional room in your the tax payers house

The sooner they abolish the "house for life" crap the better. The tax payer is providing those houses at highly discounted rates - why shouldnt they have some say in how many people are needed to effeciently fill it?

5
5
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: fixed this for you

Maybe because those in need of social housing weren't given a choice of where they were put when the local councils put them there, and they aren't being given the choice of a house with fewer rooms now, they're just having money taken from them instead. Painting those who live on the bread-line as the greedy perpetrators is just sickening when compared with the well-heeled thugs who are pushing them further into poverty.

The truth is that whilst there are scroungers in the benefits system, they make up a small number of cases, and in terms of parasites on society, those in control are worse, cost the tax-payer more, and live in much bigger houses. Most people on benefits, believe it or not, aren't claiming them out of choice, but out of necessity. Put down your copy of the Daily Mail, start thinking for yourself, and stop blaming the poor for the greediness of the rich.

6
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: fixed this for you

Its nothing to do with the daily mail, its basic common sense, if you don't actually own the place you live in, you have to be prepared to move somewhere else when the owner of it asks, especially if they are actually giving you another free alternative... I don't blame the poor for the greediness of the rich, but as someone neither rich nor poor, i have no sympathy for people who think the house they are generously allowed to stay in, at the taxpayer's expense, rather than being forced to live on the street, actually belongs to them, and that they are entitled to stay in it for life. If you are being provided with a free house, the least you can do is move to an appropriately sized one when asked to! If you want to be in control of your own destiny and live where you want to live, get educated, get some useful skills, get a job, get a mortgage on a house you can call your own, do what you want with, and stay in as long as you want!

People who have actually worked most of their life, and just fallen on hard times, are grateful to be given somewhere to stay, they aren't going to argue over being asked to move occasionally to somewhere suitable for the number of people actually living there... I know plenty of people like this and they have fierce sense of pride, they don't want to be supported, they are grateful for everything they get and are doing everything they can to become self supporting again. One of my friends had to re-budget his life and struggles a lot, as he actually lost out considerably on the benefits his family got when he took a £30k+ job, he took it anyway...

I also have very little sympathy for people who wasted away their time in school, made life a misery for the rest of us, who now expect us taxpayers who actually did make an effort, to support them.

Anon, as I know that i have unpopular views. Actually thinking that paying attention in school, getting a decent education, learning useful skills, working hard and earning a living for myself, does not somehow make me the elitist and privileged rich, who only got where we are by stepping on unemployables, who expect the state to support them with exactly the same lifestyle and benefits as someone who earns it for themselves.

1
2

Re: fixed this for: but there is no alternative offer and

it is far from obvious that it would be more sensible to build one bedroom dwellings rather than two even if building them had been permitted since Thatcher.

0
0
Bronze badge

Victim?

"... Duncan Smith will be the latest and most high-profile victim of the Universal Credit catastrophe."

Is he not the perpetrator rather than the victim?

11
0
Gold badge
FAIL

"overly ambitious in both the timetable and scope" "lacked IT expertise and senior leadership"

Yet again

Here's the thing that Ministers don't seem to get through their tiny little minds.

lots of systems x lots of data x lots of sites lots of changes (over maybe a 30 year life) --> Big f**king problem.

And with 6 different major benefits (with partly overlapping partly non overlapping) claimants that problem will be huge.

3
0
Silver badge

Well I am surprised that no one saw this coming

3
0
Bronze badge

25 Year IT Career and this still happens

25 Years I've been peddling the IT snake oil and this keeps happening and companies still make loads of money for failing to deliver.

Maybe the government should do it differently,

1) Offer seed money to build a system to 10 companies

2) Test the 10 products

3) Pick the best 3 for 2nd Stage seed funding

4) Test 3 products

5) Pick the best one for pilot with possible implementation.

3
0
Childcatcher

Re: 25 Year IT Career and this still happens

What they should do differently is to lock the civil servants in a room with several reams of paper, some pens, some empty boxes and some string.

The boxes represent each system, the string is tied between boxes showing which systems are connected and the paper shows all the inputs and outputs with the details written on the paper.

Once the civil servants can show how they want the system to work using sheets of paper that are passed around, then they have a hope that the IT system can be built correctly to support this.

The major problem of the civil service is that they lack the ability to envisage the actual problem and therefore how the solution should work.

4
0
xyz
Bronze badge
Devil

Re: 25 Year IT Career and this still happens

~> no they'd set a committee and appoint paper, string, box and pen guardians. Then they'd worry about the health and safety implications of paper cuts and people strangling themselves on string, so they'd set a committee to over see all that. Then they'd set up a paper, string, box and pen integration steering committee that the paper, pen, box and string guardians would report to.. At no point would they grasp that the paper, pen, string and boxes were meant to represent anything. After 15 years the head of the steering committee would get a knighthood.

5
1

Re: 25 Year IT Career and this still happens

I think there is an awful lot of truth in what you have written, from my limited experience in working in a civil service agency. But I think this bureaucratic bovine excrement partially comes about by the very pervasive unions which seem to dominate civil service organisations.

0
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: 25 Year IT Career and this still happens

It's not just civil service, I work in a large bank. A fair few years ago, i was involved in one of the huge projects that they were focussing on to massively change, and improve, the entire infrastructure. After about a month the techies had a pool running on how much money they would actually waste before it got canned, as it was immediately obvious to anyone with half a brain that the direction it was going was untenable...

I almost wet myself laughing in one of the meetings, 6 months in, when a contractor actually piped up and said to one of the higher ups "you do know that your target platform is batch based, not actually online, don't you? So every yes/no decision that's currently instant will happen overnight on the 'new' system."

I think it was about £25 million in the end, I didn't win.

1
0
Gold badge
Thumb Up

Re: 25 Year IT Career and this still happens

"What they should do differently is to lock the civil servants in a room with several reams of paper, some pens, some empty boxes and some string.

The boxes represent each system, the string is tied between boxes showing which systems are connected and the paper shows all the inputs and outputs with the details written on the paper."

Simple yet quite brilliant.

Thumbs up for the idea, not the clusterf**k that spawned it.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Hate shit like this.

When the governement were found to have acted illegally in claiming people _had_ to work for nothing or lose their benefit, they can bring in a law that rectroactively indemifies them from paying out what they rightfully owe.

Yet here, they just flush it down the pan and go back to the drawing board...

Perhaps the highlight of a criminal career is to become an MP?

10
0

STOP this IT BULLSHIT

Look, the money hasn't been flushed down the drain, it went into the pockets of the unscruplous or incompetant IT company directors and consultants. It went the same way as all of the other lost Government IT Spunking money, the same way as the Bank losses, it went into some other fuckers pockets. Strange that ! Stranger still, you think it turned into sewage..........

5
0
Silver badge

Fixed that for you...

"one can't help but HOPE that Duncan Smith will be the latest and most high-profile victim of the Universal Credit catastrophe."

4
0
WTF?

Couple of corrections, massive bias

Public Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge (>>*LABOUR*<<) attacked the DWP's poor record on building the new benefits system, saying:

"Confusion and poor management at the highest levels have already resulted in delays and at least £34m wasted on developing IT. If the Department doesn’t get its act together, we could be on course for yet another catastrophic government IT failure."

Why is the £34m wasted, whats the basis of this argument? If its an Agile implementation then its built in stages so why is it wasted? The mention of weird and exotic project management seems to be more based on not understanding how Agile works?

1
5

Re: Couple of corrections, massive bias

errr the PAC is made up of all parties, just Hodge is the chair.

£34M (and the rest!!!!) wasted because they didn't do it properly and have nothing to show for it. As usual the companies involved have swarmed their staff in, made a bloody fortune and delivered SFA.

Though the fault lies in the DWP management and their utter incompetence to manage:

a) any IT project on a large scale

b) the IT companies (who are not charities doing it for the good of the nation, well not UK anyway)

IDS will be gone soon, they tried to get rid of him at the last cabinet reorganisation and some senior civil servants (dead wood) too. About bloody time.

2
0

Re: Couple of corrections, massive bias

If you have enough experience of Agile (which you appear to), I think you'll know that it is a very loosely applied term. I've seen many projects that have been approached as "Agile", which actually interpretted as "We didn't want to plan or spec anything, we just wanted to start coding".

If you imagine instead that the management were incredibly poor, and had not applied *Any* methodology to the project. What do you think they would answer when asked what their methodology was? Chaos? No, they'd pick that mysterious Agile thing they've heard of, which sounds like it doesn't involve doing much management.

3
0

Re: Couple of corrections, massive bias

No, FlatSpot, that's BS. Margaret Hodge, despite being a Labour MP, is pretty neutral and I have watched her a number of times in house of commons select committee hearings, she's good, she's got teeth, she doesn't take BS and she's straight up, I don't see any party political bias in her, in her questioning and any press statements she makes.

0
0
Silver badge

unable to explain how it originally decided on its ambitious plans or evaluated their feasibility.

The Minister stamped his little foot - that's how it was decided. Politicians don't care about feasibility

6
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.

Opinion

Lightning

Jack Clark

Just as Jeff Bezos did to books and CDs, Amazon's rivals are now doing to it
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
ARA_LIbertad

Chris Mellor

Elliott Management sinks its teeth into retiring godhead

Features

Failure to crack next-gen semiconductors threatens to set back humanity
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
SAP Match Insights
Vorsprung durch grossendatatechnik, as we like to say in Germany
Inside the Google Lab where surgeons prepare the human/dog experiment
Big Blue exec tells El Reg what to keep an eye on