UK government blows money on cancelled IT projects

The U.K. government has shelved IT projects worth at least £273 million (AUD$664 million) during the last five years.

The U.K. government has shelved IT projects worth at least £273 million (AUD$664 million) during the last five years, MPs have revealed.

The money was spent on IT projects that were cancelled prior to completion during the last five years across various departments, including the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for the Environment, the Cabinet Office and the Department for Transport, it was revealed in written answers to parliamentary questions.

A number of other departments, including the Department of Health and Department for Children, Schools and Families, did not give a specific figure, but said that to calculate the money spent on cancelled projects would lead to "a disproportionate cost."

Opposition MP Richard Bacon, who sits on the Public Accounts Committee which audits government spending, has slammed the government for "poor planning and poor project management."

Bacon said the government has a "long way to go" in improving how it plans and manages IT projects. There is a "real problem" with the way projects are devised and contracts are signed, he warned.

"You often get the problem that people don't know what they want [when they sign the contracts], and they change the plan midstream," he said. "There's also political pressure from the top to get a result, and they don't do proper system testing."

Bacon also expressed frustration at projects that have failed because users have not been consulted over the design and features of systems. "You would have thought they would speak to users, you just wouldn't dream of doing things without that," he said.

The Treasury had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

In June, Martin Read, ex-chief executive at IT services firm Logica, was appointed as the government's IT troubleshooter. His remit is to investigate what Whitehall can learn from the private sector's handling of technology schemes, and crucially he will make suggestions on how the government can quickly and cleanly exit failing IT projects. Read's report is due to be published before the Budget in March next year.

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