Howard Shiplee has been appointed the latest lead on the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Universal Credit programme, the fourth person to head up the project in just six months.
Shiplee will join the project in mid-May. He currently holds the position of executive director at engineering firm Laing O’Rourke Group.
He will replace interim head David Pitchford, executive director of the government’s Major Projects Authority – the body tasked with overseeing large government programmes.
Pitchford, in turn, was a temporary replacement for Hilary Reynolds, who moved off the project after just four months in the role, and was brought in to help following the death of former DWP CIO Philip Langsdale.
The changes in leadership succession have led to further speculation that the project has hit problems, with reports that the IT behind the project is not ready. However, the department insists that Universal Credit will be delivered on time and within budget.
The department also announced that the project’s pilots are to be scaled back, however, with only one of its four April pilots – Ashton-under-Lyne – accepting claims for Universal Credit from the outset. The other three pilots are not expected to start until July.
Robert Devereux, permanent secretary for work and pensions, welcomed Shiplee’s appointment, saying his "know-how and experience will be invaluable as we begin the roll-out of Universal Credit".
Shiplee said: "I am delighted to be joining the DWP during such a key period of change and am excited by the challenges ahead and the opportunity to work with colleagues throughout the organisation to deliver this significant landmark programme.”
Shiplee was director of construction for the London 2012 Olympics and has also worked on the Ascot Racecourse redevelopment, the Network Rail/Thameslink performance upgrade, the GCHQ new building development, and airport terminal developments in Hong Kong and Manchester.