[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 September 2006, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
141m benefits computer shelved
Hands and money
The project was set to save more than 60m for the DWP by 2008
A new computer system used to process benefits payments has been scrapped at a cost to the taxpayer of 141m, the BBC has learned.

The IT project, key to streamlining payments by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), was quietly axed at an internal meeting last month.

The project had been central to delivering savings of more than 60m for the DWP by 2008.

It is the latest in a long series of computer problems for the government.

DWP pays out around 100bn a year in benefits through a variety of computer systems.


It decided three years ago to combine them into one new system - known as the Benefits Processing Repayment Programme.

But the ambitious project ran into trouble, leading in February this year with a "review" of its progress - effectively a suspension.

It is pretty disgraceful that after 2.5years of spending public money on this project, the government has walked away from it
Phillip Hammond
Shadow work and pensions secretary

The BBC has learned that the department's investment committee of senior civil servants decided about two weeks ago to cancel the programme - which had by then absorbed more than 140m.

The civil servant in charge of the project is believed to have left the department.

A DWP spokesman said the department acted of its own accord to close the programme after realising the scale of the problems.

It has now "refocused" on developing a new system for a single benefit, the planned employment support allowance.

'No-one sacked'

Phillip Hammond, the Conservatives' shadow work and pensions secretary, told BBC News 24: "It is pretty disgraceful that after two and half years of spending public money on this project, the government has walked away from it.

"We never hear of somebody actually losing their job because they have failed to implement a project they were responsible for."

Mr Hammond said if this had happened in the private sector, that person "would be heading for the door".

New inquiry into NHS IT upgrade
04 Sep 06 |  Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific