DWP IT audit to expose strategic failings

The Department for Work and Pensions has completed an internal audit of its IT strategy, and sources suggest it will reveal serious deficiencies

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has completed an internal audit of its IT strategy, and sources suggest it will reveal serious deficiencies in the department’s technology plans.

Insiders said the audit has exposed major gaps between the IT strategy and the wider government digital strategy, as well as failings in IT architecture and a lack of performance measures to track the success of DWP’s technology and how well it supports the department’s overall business objectives.

The internal criticisms are likely to be highly contentious and will bring new light to the problems experienced with the IT for Universal Credit, the department’s flagship welfare reform policy, according to Computer Weekly’s sources. It will also raise questions about prospects for other major IT projects in the department.

The DWP has an IT transformation programme underway to address its reliance on costly and inflexible legacy systems and move to a more digital approach that better aligns with the Whitehall-wide “digital by default” plans laid out by the Cabinet Office and the Government Digital Service.

DWP insiders said IT managers have lacked clear definitions of their roles, and numerous re-organisations have affected Universal Credit in particular, causing a negative effect on staff morale.

Senior IT management in the department has been overhauled in the past 12 months, with former government CIO Andy Nelson drafted in as the DWP CIO in February 2013, followed by a new chief technology officer, Jon Ayre, in September, and then Kevin Cunnington as director general for digital transformation in October.

Sources said the audit is likely to show the scale of the challenges faced by those three IT leaders in putting the necessary strategy and governance in place to ensure a coherent approach to IT at DWP, rather than approaching every requirement as a standalone IT project, as has often been the case in the past.

The spending controls put in place by the Cabinet Office for all government departments mean a lack of conformance to wider Whitehall IT strategies could result in delays for DWP in getting approval for other welfare reforms.

The National Audit Office highlighted in September 2013 that failings in IT governance and poor financial controls were major contributory factors in the problems with Universal Credit that led to £40m of IT work being written off last year.

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