UK government "wastes" £100m on cancelled IT projects


Whitehall has been forced to write off 107 million it spent on aborted IT projects in 2013/14, new figures reveal.

Millions of pounds thrown at technology deployments in various departments was effectively wasted by the government, despite an ongoing drive to streamline IT services.

The figures, released by the TaxPayers' Alliance, reveal the biggest waste was the Ministry of Justice's 56.3 million write down of an ERP project with Steria, after discovering the Cabinet Office was already developing its own version with the same supplier.

It lost another 1.7 million in money already spent on a software deployment cancelled when it realised it wasn't value for money, leaving the department responsible for more than half the 107 million total.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) threw away a staggering 27 million on the My Benefits Online (MyBOL) project, which would have allowed welfare claimants to make claims online.

The DWP halted the project after the Universal Credit roll out strategy was established, which will see the department continue to develop the scheme's digital systems as it implements existing IT systems that support the benefit payment.

While this is designed to save money, the DWP spent another 5.3 million on three technology projects now abandoned, some relating to Universal Credit.

Jonathan Isaby, CEO of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "While in some cases closing a programme or getting out of a rental agreement early may make long-term sense, many of these losses are simply ludicrous and will seriously damage the trust taxpayers have in Whitehall civil servants.

"It is clear there remains far too much waste in the system. With an ever-growing debt burden, we must make government more efficient and ensure taxpayers are getting real value for money. "

The figures come after outgoing Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude lambasted legacy government contracts for being "too long, too big and too opaque", saying Whitehall would be rid of its last legacy deal by 2020.

However, other Whitehall departments were responsible for wasting a further 16 million in 2013/14.

The sum includes 1.5 million plunged into a Ministry of Defence deployment of a software integration tool later found to be faulty during testing.

Meanwhile, the Department for Transport paid big IT outsourcer IBM 7 million in December 2013 to make "significant improvements" to a contract the supplier held with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

A government spokesperson said: "Like any business, government departments will always have write-downs for things like unused stock, and as the report recognises, some of these figures are outside the control of the public sector.

"However, this government has clamped down on wasteful spend and last year saved 14.3 billion for the taxpayer."