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Cost Of Labour’s Botched IT Projects Exposed

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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Botched IT projects under the Labour Government have cost the British taxpayer in the region of £26 billion, it has been revealed

The damning cost to the taxpayer of Labour’s computer blunders has been revealed after an investigation by the Independent newspaper.

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The investigation by the British newspaper found that British taxpayers were left saddled with a bill of more than £26 billion for computer systems that have either suffered severe delays, or run over budget, or that have been cancelled altogether.

The Independent said that the total cost of Labour’s 10 most notorious IT failures is “equivalent to more than half of the budget for Britain’s schools last year”.

One of the most noteworthy computer failures under Labour has been its £12.7 billion National Programme for IT project (NPfIT) for the NHS. The Independent found that just 160 health organisations out of about 9,000 are using electronic patient records delivered under the scheme.

Other costly IT blunders under Labour include:

  • The £7.1 billion Defence Information Infrastructure (DII) project, which was designed to replace hundreds of different computer systems within the MoD with a single system that would be used by the army, navy and air force, as well as the MoD itself. This project is running more than £180 million over budget and is 18 months late.
  • The £5 billion National Identity Scheme which was originally budgeted at £3 billion but costs have risen as opposition continues. The scheme now looks to be a dead duck after the Tories pledged to scrap it, and last July the Government said the ID cards would no longer be compulsory.
  • The £400 million Libra system (for magistrates’ courts). Fujitsu bid £146 million in 1998 to deliver the Libra system, but complications meant that costs have now risen to more than £400 million.
  • The £350 million Single Payment Scheme system (SPS) to give farmers their subsidies. However failures with the system meant farmers were left short-changed and the Public Accounts Committee warned last year that it was already “at risk of becoming obsolete”.
  • The GCHQ “box move” of technology was initially costed at £41 million, but costs have now spiralled to more than £300 million.
  • Costs for the National Offender Management Information System (C-Nomis) doubled to more than £600 million and it was abandoned in 2007, with £155 million already spent. The Public Accounts Committee described it as “a shambles” and a “prime example of how not to develop a project”.
  • The Government has quietly abandoned its Benefit Processing Replacement Programme, but only after spending £106 million on it.
  • The Prism IT project to link 200 offices of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) around the world initially cost £54 million, but delays meant that costs have ballooned to £88.5 million.
  • The Shared Services Centre at the Department for Transport to integrate the human resources and financial services now costs £81 million, a failure in management that the Public Accounts Committee described as a display of “stupendous incompetence”.

“When historians come to compile their tomes on this present government’s domestic record, one achievement will stand out: services to the IT sector,” said the Independent in an editorial.

“All this spending has been wonderful for IT consultants. The trouble is that the public, who as taxpayers have been funding for it, have been considerably less well served,” it added. “From the malfunctioning passports system to the unwieldy NHS supercomputer, ministers have been responsible for presiding over one expensive IT disaster after another.