The Child Support Agency must rectify errors in its existing computers if new IT systems are to work, MPs have told social security secretary Alistair Darling.
The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee says that the only advantage of the "regrettable'' delay in getting new IT equipment on line only by April 2002 is that it will give the CSA "time to clear out the legacy of past errors".
The all-party Westminster financial watchdog is horrified at the continuing level of errors, with one-in-four assessments wrong, one-in-three payments from parents wrong and four-out-of-five maintenance balances incorrect.
Its chairman, former Tory Treasury minister David Davis welcomed moves to simplify the assessment formula, saying, "Changes to the system proposes by the Government, combined with a new information technology system, offer a solution.
"But to make the new arrangements work, it is vital that the Child Support Agency clear out the legacy of errors to avoid polluting the new arrangements from day one."
The committee report underlines this saying, "It is important that the existing high levels of error in the Agency's records are rectified quickly and are not allowed to contaminate the accurate baseline data on which the new arrangements will rely."
"While it is regrettable that the new arrangements cannot be introduced until April 2002, this should allow the Agency time to clear out the legacy of past errors."
The CSA is determined not to rush the introduction of the new IT systems after errors made doing just that with the original computers when it was set up five years ago, the PAC was told.