£273m in IT projects axed by UK

Taxpayers money squandered say watchdog

Taxpayers money squandered say watchdog

Almost £300m-worth of public sector IT projects have been binned in the UK, sparking accusations the government is embarking on the schemes without proper thought.

In a series of written answers to parliament, it was revealed that Whitehall has shelved £273m-worth of major IT schemes over the past five years.

The figure was condemned by Public Accounts Committee member Richard Bacon, who labelled it a "shocking reflection on the failure of the government to get the basics [of IT projects] right".

The £273m included:

  • Department for Work and Pensions
    £149.4m of projects were axed including £135m for the cancelled Benefits Processing Replacement Programme (BPRP) project handled by IBM and PA Consulting and £11.2m for the retirement planner being run by Accenture and EDS.
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
    £26.2m spent on cancelled projects, including the £12.6m Catalyst electronic records system, the £9.6m Customer Information Programme and the £4m Phoenix system to handle licences for protected species.
  • Department for Transport
    £9.2m spent on canned projects, including £7.9m on the DVLA's Tracking Vehicles Through the Trade system and the £853,899 DfT electronic documents and records management system.
  • Cabinet Office
    £83m data centre scrapped and a managed hosting project called True North was also axed, following contract breaches.
  • Ministry of Justice
    £4.3m spent on the National Enforcement Tracker System when it was cancelled in August 2007 after being judged to no longer be providing value for money.
  • Department for Communities and Local Government
    £1.06m was spent on the Housing and Employment Mobility Services Agreement project by the time it was cancelled.

Several departments - including the Department of Health, the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills - refused to reveal to parliament the value of cancelled projects, claiming it would involve "disproportionate cost".

The Public Accounts Committee's Bacon, a long-time critic of the NHS National Programme for IT, said: "That figure would fund...

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...the primary schools in my constituency for a long time and in this time of economic uncertainty we have got to be looking after every pound that the taxpayer gives us.

"That high a rate of cancellation suggests the government has not thought enough about what the IT project was for before getting started."

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "People will be shocked that so much money has just been poured down the drain, particularly at a time when ordinary families are struggling to make ends meet.

"The saga of government IT is a huge list of failure after dismal failure - they never seem to learn from their mistakes and mismanagement."

The figures were revealed in a series of parliamentary written answers to shadow chief secretary to the treasury Philip Hammond.

Anne McGuire, the former minister for disabled people, told parliament about £73m of the money spent on the BPRP would be of future use to the department.