DWP could face further multimillion-pound bill for IT project problems

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) could face further multimillion-pound charges as a result of two troubled IT projects

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) could face further multimillion-pound charges as a result of two troubled IT projects.

A plan to provide an online benefits enquiry service has run into delays and delivery problems, while separately the government is negotiating with Fujitsu for a settlement over a £300m contract that was cancelled by DWP three years ago.

DWP has already had to scrap £40m of IT work on its Universal Credit programme, and is currently assessing its options over the two other projects that could end up requiring a similar total bill.

One project is My Benefits Online (MyBOL), a web-based enquiry service to allow recipients of certain benefits to view basic information online.

DWP issued a tender in January 2013 for detailed user testing on the system, but 12 months later it has still not gone live.

MyBOL was first conceived about five years ago, but the DWP has reduced its scope since then. Computer Weekly has learned that the Government Digital Service (GDS) vetoed the original version of the system, and DWP is now assessing a number of options for how best to move forward.

One option under consideration is to bring in an SME supplier with agile development skills to help bring the software up to GDS standards. But even this option means a significant reduction in the financial benefits anticipated from MyBOL, to the point that the project could be written off, according to sources.

A key question for DWP is whether any of the work on MyBOL could be reused by other digital services being developed, such as Universal Credit and Single-Tier Pensions, said the source. If the work is written off entirely, our source suggested the bill could be as much as £20m.

In response to a parliamentary question last week, employment minister Esther McVey said: “The vast majority of the My Benefits Online service has been developed. We have taken time recently to review the changing needs of our customers and the standards proposed for all government online services, as determined by Government Digital Standards. A total cost of the service is not yet available and we do not have a confirmed date for completion.”

Fujitsu deal

Separately, the government is still negotiating with Fujitsu over the cancellation of a £300m DWP desktop support contract in March 2011. Fujitsu was to provide support and services to 140,000 desktops across the UK as part of the deal, which was signed in February 2010, replacing incumbent supplier HP.

But the contract was terminated three years ago, apparently because Fujitsu had failed to meet a number of key transition targets.

“We are continuing to discuss closing the matter of the terminated desktop contract with Fujitsu and it would be inappropriate to discuss any details at this time,” said a DWP spokeswoman.

Sources told Computer Weekly that a settlement for the cancellation is likely in the next three months, although the possible terms of any agreement are unclear. One source suggested the settlement figure could be as much as £30m, but the DWP spokeswoman said such an outcome is “fundamentally incorrect”.

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