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Laurie Clarke

Reporter

DWP wasted £10m on failed IT projects last year

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had to write off more than £10m of taxpayer money on failed IT projects in the past year, according to its newly published annual report (PDF).

The wasted cash was spread across three costly duds. Accounting for the biggest share was the health transformation programme, which frittered away £4.8m on a contingency IT solution to support Personal Independence Payment assessments, in the event that a new platform wouldn’t be available in time for a transition.

However, work on this contingency solution was halted when it was realised the new digital platform would be ready for transition from March 2020.

A loss of £3.1m was also recorded for a deal with Computacentre for the purchase of ‘Remote Secure Access and Secure Web Gateway’, a cloud based software service from Palo Alto Technologies. According to the report, which was first spotted by Computer Weekly, it became clear after purchase that the service wasn’t able to support the number of necessary users.

Finally, the “fruitless payments” section notes a misfire on signing up to cyber security product Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (MS Defender). The report notes that over time it became apparent that MS Defender wasn’t compatible with aspects of the Department’s IT environment and had to be abandoned, but unfortunately not before costing the department (and the taxpayer) £2.8m. Altogether, the wasted cash totals £10.7m for IT projects.

The department highlighted the aims of 2019-20 IT projects, which included enabling transformation, improving stability and performance of digital systems, strengthening cyber security, and building a future digital approach in addition to cultivating the sufficient skills to expedite these goals.

In recent months, Covid-fuelled joblessness has sparked a six-fold surge in people applying for Universal Credit, which led to the DWP’s systems becoming log jammed earlier in the year. The annual report notes the need to make quick changes in response to the pandemic, including a more timely delivery of the Confirm your Identity service to fast-track new applications and let Universal Credit applicants prove their identity online.