The IT underpinning the government’s flagship £2.2bn Universal Credit programme is again being called into question, with reports that the project is now a year behind schedule and £100m over budget due to software issues.
The news follows a major shake-up of the programme’s leadership team, with project chief Malcolm Whitehouse and business and IT head Steve Dover both having stepped down, and a number of senior figures and contractors also due to leave the project.
Whitehall sources told The Independent on Sunday that technical issues were causing the overrun, adding that a further £300m is being hidden by rising costs reallocated to child support payments.
The departure of key senior civil servants in charge of Universal Credit could mean a total overrun of £500m by next spring, they said.
A spokeswoman from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) told Computer Weekly the change in leadership reflected the programme moving to the implementation stage.
Universal Credit will be rolled out nationally from October 2013 as planned, and we remain on track to deliver Universal Credit within budget
To date the government has spent £638m on the IT for Universal Credit, with £441m going on design and development.
A breakdown of the IT investment costs since the spending review in October 2010 shows £51m has gone on software, £14m on changes to dependent systems, £52m on infrastructure and £80m on other IT-related areas.
The DWP has been under repeated criticism that it will be unable to deliver the IT to run the programme on time, but the department denies that the project is behind schedule.
A DWP spokesperson said: "Universal Credit will be rolled out nationally from October 2013 as planned, and we've been clear that people will come onto the new benefit gradually. We are bound by the budget we have been set, and remain on track to deliver Universal Credit within that budget."