The Times reports on its front page today [1 February 2008] that the Treasury is to review spending on government IT projects “in an effort to halt a series of scandals as Gordon Brown’s ambitions to computerise public services were dealt another blow yesterday”.
The article referred to IT problems at HM Revenue and Customs.
“Hundreds of thousands of people were given an extra 24 hours to file their returns online after the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) computer filing system crashed hours before the annual deadline. The website failed to work for nearly six hours on the biggest day of the tax year, denting Mr Brown’s plans to make all taxpayers file online within four years.
“A major review of public spending will seek to draw lessons from recent IT disasters, which have cost the tax billions, The Times has learn. The review, to be conducted by Yvette Cooper, the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury, will look at IT procurement in several areas.
“A Treasury source said that the review, across a dozen areas of government spending, would seek to “ensure better value for money” for future IT projects. A recent survey revealed that the cost to the taxpayer of abandoned Whitehall computer projects since 2000 had reached £2 billion.
“This comes days after the Prime Minister asked Paul Murphy, the Welsh Secretary, to chair a new cabinet committee on IT and information security, suggesting renewed interest from No 10 in the area. This includes the Child Support Agency’s £486 million computer up-grade – which failed, causing a £1 billion claims write-off – and an adult learning programme subject to major fraud.”
We’ve seen government reviews of IT spending and projects before, with what results, if any, it’s hard to tell.
What we do know about HM Revenue and Customs, incidentally, is that it is, according to the press office, “happy” with its main IT supplier Capgemini.