HMRC has been slammed for being “unduly complacent” about the roll-out of the Real Time Information (RTI) system crucial to the Universal Credit programme, according to an official report.
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The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is concerned that RTI, which will see employers file PAYE information in real time by October 2013, has been flagged as "amber" by the Cabinet Office’s Major Project Authority. The rating signifies potential problems just four months ahead its main roll-out.
The Department for Work and Pensions' (DWP) timetable to implement Universal Credit is driving the timetable to roll out RTI, said findings on HMRC's accounts.
“HMRC acknowledged that it still has a lot of work to do and that the Major Projects Authority had rated the RTI project as amber,” said the report.
The news follows reports that the IT underpinning Universal Credit has hit major problems, with a recent overhaul of the project and a number of senior people responsible for its delivery.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) said RTI will increase the burden on small businesses and therefore on the department's workload.
“HMRC told us that it is keen to understand where businesses have a real business dynamic that makes it hard to do what it is asking in terms of providing information to the department,” said the report.
On 6 November 2012, just over two million employment records for 6,827 schemes had been migrated to RTI.
HMRC expects nearly 39 million records to have migrated by October 2013. The department has expressed confidence that it is on track to deliver RTI by October 2013, although it does not have a contingency plan in case RTI is delayed, said the report.
According to the report, HMRC is also not yet making full use of its investment in technology to analyse data. The department is moving from 3,000 individual IT systems to a "big 13 systems". It will only be able to make full use of its data to effectively target compliance activity when that move is complete.