PAC slams benefits system overhaul

Link: PAC says e-gov takeup is stalling

The report, Fraud and Error in Income Support, by parliamentary watchdog the Public Accounts Committee attacked the department over the slowness of plans to overhaul 20 antiquated legacy systems and reduce benefit fraud.

‘It is disappointing we will not see significant improvements ininformation technology systems until 2006,’ said the report. ‘The scale of the Department’s legacy systems and track record of IT failure, and the recent deferment of the new IT system for the Child Support Agency, do not augur well.’

The three-year £2bn Welfare Modernisation fund is to allow the department to build a system that provides common access to benefit claimant data currently held in over 20 separate systems, and to maximise the automation of benefit calculations and reduce the need for clerical interventions.

The government estimates £2bn a year is lost through fraud alone on Income Support, Jobseekers’ Allowance and Housing Benefit and has set a target of reducing that to around £500m by 2006.

Permanent secretary at the DWP Rachel Lomax told MPs the IT strategy is based on the phased replacement of existing systems, starting with those used to calculate Income Support.

But 2006 will not be the end, she warned.

‘Even by 2006 we will not have replaced all our Income Support systems. They are absolutely huge. What we are looking at is a programme of modernisation which is going to take about a decade,’ she said.

‘You do need to break down this process of IT modernisation into much more manageable chunks and get some things right and then move onto the next one and have gateway reviews and not try to do it all in one great exercise.’

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