Iain Duncan Smith says Universal Credit project is “on budget” and “on track”

By Sooraj Shah
09 Dec 2013 View Comments
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The secretary of state of work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has defended the Universal Credit welfare programme as "on budget" and "on track", despite constant delays and MPs insisting that the project will write off at least £140m.

Duncan Smith dismissed claims that the project will go over budget, despite £425m being spent already.

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"We were given £2bn to do this and we will have spent under that by the time we get to the end of this programme," he told BBC Radio 4.

He also disagreed with the suggestion that targets for the next two years would be missed, adding that he and his team had "never actually been specific" about exact dates. It was revealed last week that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) was to miss its 2017 implementation deadline. 

The former Conservative Party leader claimed that the IT system used to roll out Universal Credit "seems to be absolutely fine", and that the government's digital service (GDS) would test the system. 

"We believe it will work and they believe it will work" he said. He suggested that in the long term, the system could turn digital-only with access through smartphones and tablets. There has been no explanation of how the existing system would integrate with this digital system.

MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) are to quiz Duncan Smith and Universal Credit project lead Howard Shiplee on the continuing issues of the project. Last month, the PAC slammed DWP for its "alarmingly weak management" of the programme.

Of the questioning, PCS union's general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The fact Iain Duncan Smith has clung on for so long is one of the great political mysteries of our time and the question must be asked, how is he still in a job?

"He has presided over not only a disgusting campaign of vilification towards the most vulnerable people in our society but also an absolutely scandalous waste of public money that could have been better spent supporting the sick, disabled and unemployed." 

Last month, Computing came into contact with a consultant who has seen first-hand the destructive nature of the DWP's IT strategy.

He said that the department's IT strategy is hampered by employees worrying about whether the Daily Mail will approve of their actions, and said that Universal Credit is one of many IT project failures on the horizon

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