CSA IT failings highlighted again

The EDS system already branded 'an appalling waste of public money' has taken another verbal beating in parliament

IT services firm EDS has come under fire once again for its involvement with Child Support Agency (CSA) IT, as MPs debated the future of the system yesterday.

The Liberal Democrats were rebuked by opposing parties for suggesting the CSA should be part of the Inland Revenue.

Liberal Democrat David Laws said the Inland Revenue would be more effective at collecting money than other departments because of its experience in the area.

He said: "We have believed for some time that the CSA in its existing form should be scrapped, with its functions folded into those of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs... the CSA, which is about raising money, should be part of the Inland Revenue."

The CSA IT failure has led to 1.9 million people being overpaid and 700,000 unpaid. The EDS system was finished 18 months after the project deadline, and last year the National Audit Office said the CSA system was understaffed and "an appalling waste of public money".

The Conservatives said moving the system to the Inland Revenue would be difficult because the EDS system was already full of problems.

Conservative MP Anne McIntosh said: "We are not convinced that the Inland Revenue is the answer. If the computer system provided by a company, in this case EDS, is not working for one agency, it is unlikely to transfer to another without problems."

Labour's Frank Field said any money being used to reform the system should first go to families in need of support.

He said: "If the chief executive wants another £500m of taxpayers' money, I would prefer it to be given to the mothers and children who do not get their maintenance. We should not try to find the end of the rainbow and think that EDS — if only we feed the company more money — will come up with an IT system that is fit for purpose."

Michael Weir of the Scottish National Party added: "To transfer the agency's functions to the Inland Revenue seems to me to be the equivalent of wilfully leaping out of the frying pan directly into the fire.

"There is also a practical problem: the CSA works with one computer system while the Inland Revenue works with another. Are those systems at all compatible? Can we transfer, one between the other, or are we to pay the famous EDS another massive sum for a computer system that can run both together?"