The 19 most significant IT projects at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) are either over-budget or late, a cross party group of MPs heard today.
The DWP is undergoing a large transformation programme involving more than 200 IT-enabled projects. The current estimate of the total cost of these projects is £2.4bn, up from the original estimate of £2.1bn.
Out of the 19 identified by the National Audit Office as being the most significant, nine are expected to be over-budget and ten are late.
MPs on the work and pensions select committee quizzed senior civil servants on their IT strategy at a meeting today.
Committee chair Terry Rooney MP said, "This is an area of serious concern to the committee, as well as to the public."
Projects under scrutiny include the customer information system, a database of citizens' details. Its total costs were £88m, up from a planned £40m.
The central payment system will be used for benefits payments. The current cost estimate is £178m, up from £90m. It will be delivered in December 2011 - five years after its planned completion date of October 2006.
Joe Harley, IT director general and CIO corporate IT, long with Dean James, corporate IT chief operating officer, and Malcolm Whitehouse, group applications director, defended their IT record.
Harley said, "We have hugely strengthened department governance, and this allows us to see where the problems have come from.
"We are now in a position to make sure that these types of overruns do not happen in the future."
DWP has employed a number of IT professionals from the private sector, and is aiming to become an "intelligent customer" as most of its IT services are outsourced. Its two main suppliers are EDS and BT.
"It is crucial that we become an intelligent customer" said Harvey. "We know we have got more to do. We have hired senior IT professionals from the private sector to help us get to a better place."
By 2015, the department will have opened all aspects of its IT services up to competition from other suppliers in an attempt to reduce costs and improve the quality of its customer service.