Very little progress has been made on the Department for Work and Pensions' disastrous Universal Credit programme, with just 0.3 per cent of the eligible population using it, the Public Accounts Committee has said.
“As the department has justified this spending on the promise of benefits in the future – such as from higher employment – rather than on the actual delivery of benefits to date, we simply cannot judge the value for money of this expenditure at this stage," said PAC chair Margaret Hodge.
She added: “The IT infrastructure for Universal Credit continues to be of particular concern. The department has spent £344m with suppliers developing its ‘live’ service systems for claimants who have straightforward initial claims which do not involve all six benefits, yet it expects to re-use just £34m worth of this IT in the longer term."
The DWP estimated that nine million people will be using the system by 2019. However, given the progress of the system to date this figure would appear to be wildly optimistic.
The report re-iterated that the Major Projects Authority, the oversight body for large government programmes, recently flagged the project as extremely high-risk, despite it being given a clean slate in 2013.
"Since the reset the department has already fallen a further six months behind schedule for developing the digital service," the PAC said.
Brian Wernham, independent analyst and author of Agile Project Management for Government estimates it will take the DWP another 120 years to reach its roll-out target, on the basis of its current rate of getting active on-board.
Wernham added the report summarised the recent committee hearing. "The challenge now is for the roll out to gather speed and for in-coming government to have a credible plan." ®