Watchdog blasts benefits agency IT

No balance in the system...

No balance in the system...

The National Audit Office (NAO) has slammed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for failing to improve IT systems used for benefits payments.

The government watchdog said systems are still too complex and the department has not yet managed to make them accessible and efficient for the tasks they should perform.

In a statement, Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office said: "There is a balance to be struck between a system which is detailed enough to respond to needs and yet straightforward enough to be run efficiently, communicating clearly with customers and minimising error. This balance has not yet been reached."

Bourn called on the department to develop a strategy to tackle the problem.

In a report on the DWP, the NAO said the extra work required to recover overpayments and the £2.6bn spent on work required to detect fraud and error were examples of how the system was failing.

Last month, the Public Accounts Committee reported that new IT systems had increased errors in benefit payments.

According to a 2003-04 report, the DWP lost £3bn through fraud and error.