Well it took longer than I expected (fully three years) but it has finally started to happen in earnest. After a few false starts, this government’s fakery and statistical misrepresentations have been unable to cover up the disastrous effects of their policies where they have been introduced and their disastrous implementation where they have not.
We could have, and may at some later date, examined Chris Grayling‘s monumental u-turn on legal aid or Theresa May‘s embarrassing stint as Home Secretary or George Osborne‘s on-going failures on the economic front but today I would like to return to serial statistical abuser Iain Duncan Smith and his universal credit misadventure.
The universal credit’s IT implementation has been excoriated in a scathing report released by the National Audit Office today and which goes some way to explaining why a national rollout of the new benefit has been delayed by “IT glitches”.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is widely believed (and most certainly by this blog) that IDS has been guilty of spreading lies and misinformation about the effects of his policies thus far and it comes as no surprise that he appears to be at it once again.
Let’s take a look at a few of the criticisms levelled at his department’s performance by the NAO:
- Universal credit reform is “overambitious” and “poor value for money”
- Risks have been taken with the universal credit to hit targets
- IT systems have “limited functionality”
- Unfamiliar project management approach has been used
- The NAO’s report describes various “setbacks”, and says: “the [DWP] has not achieved value for money.
“The department has delayed rolling out Universal Credit to claimants, has had weak control of the programme, and has been unable to assess the value of the systems it spent over £300 million to develop.
“These problems represent a significant setback to Universal Credit and raise wider concerns about the department’s ability to deal with weak programme management, over-optimistic timescales, and a lack of openness about progress.”
The setbacks identified by the NAO include:
- Officials “unable to explain” the reasoning behind the timescales or their feasibility
- No “adequate measures” of progress
- Computer systems unable to identify potentially fraudulent claims
- £34m investment in IT systems has been written off
- DWP lacks IT expertise and senior leadership
- Delays to the rollout will reduce the expected benefits of reform
- Expenditure on IT accounts for almost £300m of the £425m spent so far and DWP still does not know whether the infrastructure will support a national rollout of the universal credit
According to the NAO the “underlying issues” had not been addressed and there was no “detailed view” about how the system was supposed to work. Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO: the “relatively high risk trajectory” was met by “weak management, ineffective control and poor governance”.
This is not the first time that the NAO has been highly critical of this government’s policies. For example, how could we forget the failed “bonfire of the quangos”? In January 2012 the NAO reported that the government did not have a ‘good enough grasp’ of the costs of its plans to abolish more than 260 public sector bodies” a statement that must have gone down well in Eric “never out of the trough” Pickles’ department at the time.
Typically Mr Duncan Smith rejects all criticism claiming that he has dealt with these problems and, even though the NAO report “delays” and hundreds of millions of pounds of “waste” , he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This [universal credit] will be delivered within budget and within the timescale.” On the same programme Tony Collins, an investigative journalist, and former Executive Editor of Computer Weekly called the universal credit IT system a “disaster on a grand scale.”
Here’s IDS taking a beating from the always excellent Jim Naughtie this morning:
Source: BBC News
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