DWP scraps core benefits processing programme

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DWP scraps core benefits processing programme

Tony Collins

The Department for Work and Pensions has cancelled a £141m core IT programme less than three months after giving an assurance to parliament that new funding for aspects of the scheme had been approved.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Philip Hammond said the discrepancy between the reassuring parliamentary reply in June 2006 and the cancellation of the scheme in August highlighted the poor quality of information provided to parliament on the progress of major IT schemes.

The DWP, which is the largest department in central government, with more than 110,000 end-users, has declined to explain the discrepancy in its parliamentary reply.

The department has also refused to release any of the independent Gateway reviews of its cancelled Benefit Processing Replacement Programme (BPRP).

Last year the DWP described the BPRP as part of a "key strategic initiative, which will provide modernised benefit processing to support DWP".

The three-year programme was based on commercial off-the-shelf products from Siebel, Curam and IBM.

In June, Conservative MP Tim Boswell asked the government about the costs and timetable for capital spending on the BPRP, which is part of the department's Working Age and Transformation Change2 programme, dubbed Watch2.

In a reply, the DWP told Boswell, "A departmental investment committee recently approved funding for the completion of the Watch2 projects and for the BPRP to develop its overall scope and delivery timetable by June 2006."

No mention was made to parliament of the possibility that the BPRP, on which £141m has been spent, may be cancelled. And no announcement was made on the ending of the scheme, although the DWP has confirmed that it has been cancelled.

Hammond said, "The decision making process on funding for the BPRP is very unclear. Serious lessons must be learned from this experience so that the government stops wasting taxpayers' money and starts delivering the improved public services these projects are designed to support."

Read article: Government should be clear about £140m lessons

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