Be clear about £140m lesson

The decision by the Department for Work and Pensions to drop its £140m Benefits Processing Repayments IT project could be much more than just another central government IT failure.

The decision by the Department for Work and Pensions to drop its £140m Benefits Processing Repayments IT project could be much more than just another central government IT failure.

It could offer a chance to examine how effectively the government's Gateway review process for major IT projects is operating.

We know little about the project and even less about how the DWP could spend so much money before making its decision to drop the project. The government did not think it necessary to make an announcement.

The DWP is now refusing to make public the results and recommendations of Gateway reviews, or even the "traffic light" status of the project.

But publication of the results would surely be the best way for the IT community, and the taxpayer, to evaluate either the project management skills of the DWP, or the efficacy of the Gateway process, which is at the heart of government's efforts to improve IT project delivery.

Computer Weekly has long campaigned for the publication of Gateway findings, and government CIO John Suffolk has also said that some information from reviews should be published.

Freedom of information watchdog the Information Commissioner has agreed in principle to some information from Gateway reviews being made public. MPs have also called for the results to be published to enable costly schemes to be scrutinised by parliament, taxpayers and those involved in the programmes.

The reasons for dropping a £140m project should not be shrouded in mystery. IT projects will continue to fail until they are subject to meaningful open review. Government will repeat the errors of the past unless lessons of both success and failure are widely shared.

Read article: DWP acraps core benefits processing programme


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This was last published in September 2006

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