Exclusive RAF personnel have spent the last six weeks pulling their hair out over problems with pay and benefits brought about by the bodged implementation of an EDS computer system. Since it went live at the end of March, thousands have been on the receiving end of processing errors in the payroll system.
Instigated by the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency (AFPAA) in 2004, the Joint Personnel Administration project (JPA) was to cut £600m over 10 years by making personnel across the Army, Navy and RAF do their own human resources administration.
The RAF was first in line for the system, with the other forces expected to implement the "self service" HR system later this year. But the RAF implementation has gone off like a Keystone Cops' car without wheels.
RAF personnel on the Professional Pilots Rumour Network (PPRuNe) think of themselves as guinea pigs because the system test appears to have been done on the fly.
One source close to the project said it was usual that testing was cut to meet implementation timetables.
They report being underpaid, overpaid, and not paid at all. Pension payments and thousands of pay packets were affected, according to our source. One email said to have come from the RAF's project lead claims that 1,100 RAF people went without the "flight pay" top-ups in their April pay packets.
There was a danger of inaccuracies in records that may have arisen from the transfer of data from the old computer system and may have led to last month's pay problems. This frustration might have been avoided had the system been working properly in the first place.
Personnel couldn't check their records for accuracy because the system wouldn't let them in. Many were not given passwords. Many of those who had passwords couldn't log on because the system was overloaded. When they did get in they found the system so strained they couldn't do anything. They wasted hours of work and personal time. The system was also peppered with niggling faults, said PPRuNe posters - a classic sign of a rushed and ill-tested delivery.
Our source said this did not bode well for the rollout across the rest of the armed forces: "If this is to go to the Army and Navy, where personnel numbers are significantly larger, there should be sense of urgency.
"Someone working on the frontline in BASRA is going to want to get paid," he said.
EDS and MOD staff are said to have been working round the clock to correct the problems, but as yet there are no definitive explanations for the bodge. EDS was unavailable to comment.