Five-year-delayed project meant to "increase speed and efficiency"
Nine major IT projects underway at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are collectively more than 15 years late.
The figure was revealed in a written answer to Parliament by Jonathan Shaw, minister for disabled people, following a question by Mark Harper, Conservative MP for Forest of Dean.
According to the DWP, the IT project with the longest hold-up is the Central Payments System, a payments engine that was supposed to "increase speed and efficiency" but which has seen its completion date pushed back by more than five years.
The £178m system was initially due to go live in October 2006 and is now scheduled to be up and running by December 2011.
According to the DWP, the project's scope was sufficiently extended after the need for additional interfaces was uncovered during the design phase, prompting the renegotiation of contracts with suppliers.
The Pensions Transformation Project, a £598m IT change programme designed to bolster customer service and save money, has also suffered a significant delay in completion, from March 2007 to 2010-2011, which the DWP attributed to "significant changes in phased implementation plans" that caused the project to be rolled out over a longer period.
The £48m Method of Payment Reform Programme, designed to find new electronic payments methods for users who don't want to direct payments to bank accounts, has also seen its completion date pushed back - from July 2007 to March 2011.
However, the DWP claims the disparity is not a delay, more a communications error: "The end-date for the programme was always planned to be March 2011. An earlier date of July 2008 was reported mistakenly in a previous response. This was the delivery date of an early phase of this programme," the written answer said.
Of the nine projects listed by the DWP, only two have had their completion dates delayed by less than one year: the Pension Reform Delivery Programme, set back by eight months, and the Document Repository Service, held up by four months.
The total cost of the nine projects runs at more than £1.1bn, according to the DWP.
According to the DWP's Shaw, the department's IT record is a good one.
"Overall, the Department has a very strong track record in delivering major and complex change involving IT, of which the successful introduction of the employment and support allowance is the most recent example. But, we are always seeking to improve our project management and governance processes," he said.
"At each stage of this process project plans are subject to rigorous scrutiny to ensure that they continue to fit with Departmental strategy and continue to deliver value for money," Shaw added.
A spokesman for the DWP said: "Projects are sometimes extended in scope and may take longer to deliver than originally planned, to meet policy developments or new needs. However, the Department has strengthened its project governance in line with NAO recommendations to ensure that project costs and timetables are kept on track, or changes are justified."