A government welfare-to-work project is open to fraud and error due to lack of IT implementation, according to the National Audit Office. The Work Programme run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) does not have a fully working IT project, despite being rolled out in June 2011, the National Audit Office (NAO) said in a report on Tuesday.
"The IT project to support the programme was not fully functional when the programme was launched," said the NAO. "A consequence is that the department will not be able, until March 2012 at the earliest, to carry out automatic checks to confirm that people who find work have stopped claiming benefits... In the meantime, there is an increased risk of fraud and error going undetected."
In the nine months between the launch of the project and automatic checking, the 18 prime contractors for the programme will claim payment for placing people in work using written submissions. DWP expects to pay out £60m to the contractors over the period, based on "a simple check that the claim is reasonable", said NAO in its report. This, coupled with lack of automatic checking of claimants, could lead to fraud or error, said NAO.
There will be at least 16 months between the Work Programme starting and the supporting IT being fully functional, NAO added.
The DWP denied that lack of automatic checking of claimants coupled with written submissions by contractors had increased the risk of fraud and error.
"We've been dealing with it clerically," a DWP spokeswoman told ZDNet UK. "We feel the NAO is wrong in thinking [the programme] is more open to fraud and error, because it's all being checked."