Universal credit programme director Hilary Reynolds has moved off the project after just four months in the role, the latest senior figure to have left the programme in recent months.
The move follows the appointment of David Pitchford last month, executive director of the government’s Major Projects Authority (MPA), as interim head of the programme.
As chief executive of the MPA, Pitchford has experience working on troubled IT projects. Many saw his appointment as an indication that the programme had hit major difficulties.
Reynolds' short duration in the role also raises questions over the department’s original assertion that she was brought in to move the programme from system design to delivery.
Reynolds was brought in to replace Malcolm Whitehouse, who stepped down from the project at the end of last year, along with a number of senior figures.
Last week it was claimed that key IT firms including Accenture, Atos Origin, Oracle, Red Hat, CACI and IBM UK have stepped down, or been notified by the department to suspend work on the project. But the DWP denies that any work on the project has stopped.
Pitchford will remain in the role until the DWP recruits for a permanent replacement, said a DWP spokeswoman. She said: “David Pitchford's role as chief executive for universal credit effectively combines the senior responsible officer and programme director (Hilary's post) roles. As a result, Hilary Reynolds will now move onto other work”
Brian Wernham, independent consultant, said: “I have welcomed DWP’s change to a strategy of ‘prove before we move’ which the outgoing programme director Hilary Reynolds adopted,” he said.
Wernham added: “The Cabinet Office has been pushing the need for more feedback and reaction from public policy trials, and the Universal Credit Programme should test different models for implementing its new regulations before committing to national roll-out using the supporting technology.
The team need to identify which 20% of the system should be prioritised for roll-out from October, and move beyond mere delivery of product - policy level optimisation of value for money should be the objective,” he said.