Failed gov't IT projects cost £273m

Whitehall has been accused of embarking on IT schemes without proper thought, following the revelation of the losses, incurred over five years

Almost £300m worth of public-sector IT projects have been binned in the UK, sparking accusations that 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 the following:

  • Department for Work and Pensions
    £149.4m of projects were axed, including £135m for the cancelled Benefits Processing Replacement Programme 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 was 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 was spent on canned projects, including £7.9m on the DVLA's Tracking Vehicles Through the Trade system and the £853,899 Department for Transport electronic-documents and records-management system
  • Cabinet Office
    An £83m datacentre was scrapped and a managed hosting project called True North was also axed, following contract breaches
  • Ministry of Justice
    £4.3m had been 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 of 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 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," said Bacon.

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," said Elliott.

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 that about £73m of the money spent on the Benefits Processing Replacement Programme would be of future use to the Department for Work and Pensions.