The speed at which Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) deployed its IT systems for its ‘welfare to work’ scheme, has increased the risk of fraud and error going undetected, according to a report from the National Audit Office (NAO).
Because the IT projects supporting the programme were not fully functional when the project was launched, the DWP will not be able to carry out automatic checks to confirm that people who find work have stopped claiming benefits until March 2012, said the report.
The department will also not be able to use its IT support to generate management information on how many job and sustainment outcomes the Work Programme, or individual providers, are delivering until September 2012 at the earliest.
The cost of the project was originally estimated to be £4.6m, but the budget for the system now stands as £8.6m due to the DWP having underestimated the complexity of the project, said the report.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “The department has set providers stretching performance targets and it needs to ensure that they do not cut corners to stay in profit, such as targeting easy to reach people, reducing service levels or treating sub-contractors unfairly.”
But the NAO said the welfare to work scheme had a number of innovative design features that address weaknesses in previous schemes.
The department needs to ensure that improvements to the IT system are delivered on schedule. In the meantime, there is an increased risk of fraud and error going undetected, said the NAO.