Government needs to fire suppliers who waste 'billions of pounds' on failed projects, says former DWP employee

By Sooraj Shah
18 Nov 2013 View Comments

The government doesn't fire enough of the big name suppliers who have wasted "billions of pounds" on failed IT projects, a former Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) employee has claimed.

The DWP contractor, who spoke exclusively to Computing but wishes to remain anonymous, said that a key issue within government was that suppliers get involved and do not deliver what they set out to at the offset, but are not then subsequently fired.

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"The government doesn't fire them - I know that one big supplier has been cut off the supplier list [Fujitsu], but what has it taken to get there? It has taken tens of billions of failed projects I suspect," he said.

The DWP has written off at least £140m on its Universal Credit welfare project, for which lead IT suppliers include Accenture, BT, HP and IBM. The former consultant believes that some of these big suppliers are equally to blame for many of the issues at DWP, but said that mismanagement was an overriding factor.

"Contracts are entered into that would be thrown out of the boardroom in the private sector. To say that projects are started and funded without a proper vision of requirements would be an understatement. There are no service level agreements (SLAs) in force and there is confusion as to who the real customer is," he stated.

An example of this confusion is a web-based system that was developed under a 100-page contract.

"It has no validation of input done on the web page, which gets millions of hits a month. This is so basic that it inconceivable that anyone would accept it, but it is delivered and rolled out," he said.

"The deciding factor of getting through the system is your National Insurance (NI) number, and that is only entered after five pages of other information. You would put that on the first page if it was critical. You could half-fill any practical web page and pull that out of the database, pre-populate it and save someone 25 minutes for using the web form; anybody who is building web pages knows that," he explained.

He went on to explain what he sees as the route of the problem within government.

"I expect that some of it stems from the fact that the government is so used to specifying everything down to the last nut bolts and washers, so they come up with multi-faceted hundred-page documents on how an end supplier will develop something, and the end supplier sits down and comes up with an amount [of money they want for it]," he said.

The former DWP employee concluded by suggesting that the main issue was a lack of oversight.

"Who is to blame if a lawyer has come up with a contract without talking much to an IT consultant or person who is building the system in the first place," he said.

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