An all-party committee of MPs yesterday attacked the government's record on public sector IT projects, and said Whitehall was hiding "an appalling waste" of public money behind a "cloak of commercial confidentiality".
The work and pensions committee was especially critical of the Child Support Agency's (CSA) telephone and computer system, which it described as "over spec, over-budget and over due". It called for a thorough analysis of the installation of the system, so that the same mistakes would not be made again.
EDS, the company responsible for the CSA system, has been at the heart of several high-profile government computer contracts, and the resulting publicity has rarely been good. In April, it was revealed that staff at the agency had resorted to using pocket calculators to work out what payments were due, because the system had failed so comprehensively.
A spokesman for the company denied the project was over budget, although The Guardian reports that costs have risen from £400m to £456m.
Committee chairman Liberal Democrat MP Sir Archy Kirkwood, said that there is a desperate need for greater transparency. "Government has produced a mountain of guidance to encourage successful IT projects but there's no way for parliament or the public to know whether it's being followed - until the IT fails and then it's too late," he said.
We have not yet been able to speak to Mr. Kirkwood about his report as he has been busy with constituency work. Watch this space for more information. ®