back to article Universal Credit: £40 MILLION and counting's been spaffed up the wall on useless IT gear

The chaotic IT implementation of the one-dole-to-rule-them-all benefits system will lead to millions of pounds of taxpayers' money being wasted, secretary of state for work and pensions Iain Duncan Smith admitted to MPs. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith MP confirmed to Parliament's Work and Pensions select …


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  1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    How do I get a slice of that pie?

    1. AceRimmer

      Change your surname to "Accenture" and start sending the Gov. large invoices

      The fact that you will have produced exactly Zero will actually be noted somewhere as an improvement in service.

      When this happens you can double the amount charged

      1. theblackhand

        It's not that easy...

        You have to turn up in an expensive suit for the annual performance review before you can double what you charge.

  2. Furbian

    "97m-and-counting in taxpayer money will have been written-off as the software currently being used by just 2,000 benefit claimants"

    That's £48,000 per claimant. Dole at about £50 a week costs £2600 per claimant a year, wouldn't it be cheaper to let them claim as they are doing currently? It's not as if they get it for nothing, job centres are quite adept at sanctioning those they think are not doing enough to get a job.

  3. Gordan


    "£125m had been spent on software code and a further £27m on software licences."

    £125m on software development isn't that outrageous for a system of this scale that has to be as bulletproof in terms of security as possible.

    £27m on software licences is, however, completely ridiculous. Whatever happened with the recent noises made about using open source where possible/appropriate?

    1. thenim

      Re: Split

      On the contrary, 125 mil is bloody expensive, I'd wager that in reality for the overseas coders, the total costs are probably in the region of 10 mil if that, the rest is for the suite monkeys...

      Someone *cough* Accenture *cough* are getting a nice payday at the expense of the UK taxpayers...

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Split

        The figure of £125M is outrageously expensive for creating a system where all the business rules, processes and goals are so well established. It would be one thing if the related programs had never existed before and every thing was being built from scratch, but that isn't the case.

        This sort of crap goes on all the time with outsourced software development. The company doing the development has less than zero understanding of the business rules and processes and/or have preconceived notions about how the processes should work. The managers nor the development staff ever bothers to visit Sally in the claims dept and find out how everything actually works.

        They base their code on executive level flow charts that condense an entire departments operations into a rhombus of a particularly unsavory orange color. They're basically guessing at how things actually work and they're also doing whatever they can to lower their work burden so they're putting their own biases and opinions into the code. So you end up with something that's got to be continuously reworked.

        Your own people should be the ones building the system that drives your entire organization. People familiar with the operational realities of the processes and desired outcomes. Otherwise you just end up with a really expensive pile of shit that may be fully operational, but it isn't doing what it's supposed to do.

        1. Lyndon Hills 1

          Re: Split

          condense an entire departments operations into a rhombus of a particularly unsavoury orange colour

          I find they are often drawn as a cloud shape. I like to imagine them labelled with 'magic happens here'.

    2. Dominion

      Re: Split

      Open Source doesn't equal free. For example, if you're using Red Hat Enterprise Linux, you still need support contracts to entitle you to download patches from Red Hat.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "bogus nonsense about huge write-offs."

    How huge is 40 million write-off? Positively peanuts, Mr... ehm... what's his name?

    oh, sorry, 40.1 million. Could I have that last bit please? It'd last me 10 years.

  5. Crisp

    "£91m in IT assets will be worthless five years from now"

    Code that works is an asset. Code that doesn't work is a liability.

    "code worth £91m would only be used until a "digital solution" is implemented."

    Ah, no wonder the code doesn't work. It's an analogue code solution!

    1. thenim

      Re: "£91m in IT assets will be worthless five years from now"

      I still haven't worked out what this means as well... Is this some form of IT speak I've yet to encounter?

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: "£91m in IT assets will be worthless five years from now"

        >I still haven't worked out what this means as well... Is this some form of IT speak I've yet to encounter?

        No it's media spin on a normal accountancy practise.

        In reality I suspect these assets are already largely worthless to any one outside of the DWP Universal Credits project ...

        1. Zmodem

          Re: "£91m in IT assets will be worthless five years from now"

          they are talking about their new dell`s

          all other benefit offices will shut down, when universal credit is in full use, with a single database, on the wide area network thing

          but then retards on ebay will pay retail price for something thats 4 years old

      2. Steve Knox

        Re: "£91m in IT assets will be worthless five years from now"

        It's pretty obvious.

        digital: adj manipulated with a finger or the fingertips.

        (from, definition 3)

        Clearly this refers to human fingers (+hands) being the driving force in the future. In other words, they recognize the true value of the current system and plan to go back to a manual process. Government being what it is, that will take 5 years.

        1. Zmodem

          Re: "£91m in IT assets will be worthless five years from now"

          most claims and paperwork are now all done online on the jobcentre site, along with searching for a job, instead of going into the job centre and using their slow terminals

          1. Corinne

            Re: "£91m in IT assets will be worthless five years from now"

            Nearly all the terminals have all been closed down at my local jobcentre, so anyone who doesn't have internet access at home for whatever reason has to find some other place to go.

            I really hope that the new system is light years ahead of the existing Universal Jobmatch web site, as that's one of the worst sites I've ever visited in so many ways.

  6. ukgnome


    Did anyone at all see this coming?

    Oh, what's that.......the entire readership of El Reg!

    1. TitterYeNot

      Re: FFS IDS

      Look on the bright side - had things panned out differently we'd have this plonker as fuckwit-in-chief prime minister.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: FFS IDS

        That would have required Hell to send out for gritting lorries.

  7. Vimes

    I wonder what would happen to the levels of waste in government if we linked MP pay rises to it? The more waste there is, the less money there is for MPs...

  8. Buzzword

    Baby steps, not great leaps

    In my (admittedly limited) experience, large IT projects work best when they start off as small systems, already in use, and receive incremental improvements. "Big bang" projects are far more prone to failure.

  9. Why Not?

    Still has a way to go to catch up with the last lot!

    I laugh at your sub beelion bar tab, real idiots spaff £10Billion.

    But it does seem if they are just collecting data and processing it externally £10 million would have been more than enough. Can't we buy one that works off the shelf?

  10. Don Jefe


    The guy in the picture isn't being defiant. He's laughing. So is every other person in the picture. Not metaphorically laughing. Really laughing.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Give them a whiteboard and tell them to explain it properly

    I am fully conversant with concepts like writedown and NPV, but is it just me or is this 'digital only', amortisation stuff complete balderdash designed to confuse. If I was an MP on that committee I'd give IDS, Driver and Shiplee et al a whiteboard an idellible marker pen and tell them to explain it properly.

    1. nichomach

      Re: Give them a whiteboard and tell them to explain it properly

      That presumes an ability on their part to do so, which appears unlikely given the people concerned.

  12. El_Fev

    Losing 40 Million is annoying..

    But compared to the 10 Billions spunked up the wall by Prescott and his merry band for the NHS , this is absolute nothing!

    Good god by government standards this is a raging success, how much did the court system cost before that was thrown into the bin? 500 Million?

  13. JeeBee

    So what's that £91m in assets that will be fully deprecated in five years? Does it include the hardware within redundant datacentres? Or is it non-reasonable deprecation only?

    I am always astonished at the cost of these systems, but when you get large software consultancy firms involved it's hardly a surprise. Poor code at a high price, delivered late and not to spec.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Agreed, although it probably was to spec, as in an "output based specification". The big consultancies love government OBSs because they are incredibly detailed and granular and they can deliver against them to the letter, confident in the knowledge that when someone tests the system end-to-end it will fail to work in the way that the people who wanted it in the first place imagined. Many profitable change control notes follow and no-one can sue the suppliers for a penny. If God had worked to an OBS we would all have legs with the knees at the back.

      1. Havin_it

        >If God had worked to an OBS we would all have legs with the knees at the back.

        But that'd be awesome! We could taunt crocodiles while backing away from them!

        1. <shakes head>

          nope as the hips will be conected the right way round

          1. Havin_it

            Okay, then I could scratch the small of my back with my massive unpedicured big toenails. It's still a win.

  14. HKmk23

    Government IT....a real example of an oxymoron.

    I would suggest perhaps government IT, is a real example of the bewildered being led by the blind. I have now probably offended any number of politically correct jobs worths.

    I have been there and wept. While you still have civil servants being manipulated (and that is the correct word) by avaricious and unscrupulous IT vendors then real IT guy's are put in the same position as the poor bugger who tried to point out that the Emperor in fact had no clothes on at all....rather than the new suit everyone was admiring.

  15. taxman
    Thumb Up

    Shiplee speaks sense

    and hopefully someone in Gov will listen. Digital by default was the driver for this one. Just think how much else is being planned by other Gov Depts to meet this direction given by the Cabinet Office and how much else could be wasted.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shiplee speaks sense

      Nah, it's already been planned. Every department is being moved over to eventually. Now if only they could get around to upgrading all the legacy directgov applications that the public rely on that have been there since launch this time last year.

      1. taxman

        Re: Shiplee speaks sense

        "Every department is being moved over to eventually."

        LOL. Depends when 'eventually' is. Looking at how progress in GDS is like watching someone swim through treacle I think that the transfers that should have been achieved this month will not be moved over until this time next year..if that.

  16. Gareth Morgan

    A bit of understatement

    "However, IDS confessed last week that the target could no longer be reached as at least 700,000 people seeking Employment Support Allowance will still be absent from the new system a little over three years from now."

    So they'll just need to keep one old system running for a while longer then ..... unless ... perhaps .... he wasn't being .... quite as open as he might have been ....

    because people claiming ESA might have children, so the child tax credit system will have to be kept running by HMRC, who will also have to carry on running working tax credit for those who were working before becoming sick or with working partners. Some of these ESA claimants might be paying rent so that will mean that housing benefit will have to continue - in every local authority in the UK - as well.

    Then there are the major changes to means-tested benefits for older people, which hinge around the introduction of single-tier pensions in 2016, and which have to be coordinated with Universal Credit timetables because of rule changes on age and many other reasons. I wonder (whistles innocently) what might be happening around IT development for the two new pension credit schemes due to start then?

  17. El Presidente

    Forty million? Triple it and you're getting close.

    Traditionally, £40,000,000 is Governmentspeak for £120,000,000.

    I see no reason why in the case of IDS the above will be any different.

    And he'll still get a Lordship.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time for a new gov dept. - 'Department for IT Development' ?

    Their mandate - build the skills in-house to develop software for other government departments. I can think of at least one other government department with extensive skills in IT/Software development & data management (cough cough).

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Time for a new gov dept. - 'Department for IT Development' ?

      "Their mandate - build the skills in-house to develop software for other government departments. I can think of at least one other government department with extensive skills in IT/Software development & data management (cough cough)."

      I think you'll find it was called the CCTA.

      It's shut down was widely encouraged by assorted conslutancies, who found it rather too efficient at seeing through their BS.

    2. Primus Secundus Tertius

      Re: Time for a new gov dept. - 'Department for IT Development' ?

      It used to be called the Department of Administrative Affairs, and was run by messrs Hacker and Appleby.

  19. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


    £100M odd spent for 20k claimants, works out at... £50k per claimant. Not counting, of course, their actual benefits.

    I'm sure any one of those people who are trapped in poverty by the benefits system would be glad of the £50k. Of course, it would be impractical to give it to them directly, but how about spending it on something useful instead, which could help them transform their lives, such as affordable social housing?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Everything's working perfectly to plan...

    Not only is that another £100m+ of tax-payer money channeled in to the hands of the already wealthy but it'll also reduce the amount of benefits paid out by simply not working.

  21. SVV

    Has anyone else noticed....

    that IDS now sports the same (albeit whilte) hairstyle as the pointy headed boss in the Dilbert strips....

    Could this be an indicator for a genetic disposition towards screwing up IT projects, and then spouting nonsense as things fail?

  22. Snar

    IBS should be more apt given the stress of seeing the spaffing so much taxpayers money.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I had the unfortunate experience of being made redundant about a year ago. I had to sign on for all the logical reasons and I used the universal job search "crap" website everyday to look for work, and the advisors sent me links to construction site jobs and medical positions. I'm a bloody computer/network specialist for gods sake. I've now gone self employed and what a pain in the ass that was, just imagine not needing a loan or help starting a business!!!! Now I'm bringing in close to £2.5k a month on my own, and still I get hassle from the job centre about providing proof of my income. I don't need their help or trust their advisors at all.

    If things do start to go bad for me in the future I'm just gonna live in the job centre, they can pick up the bill!

    Anon because I know my former advisor reads the Register

    1. Zmodem

      Re: DWP

      i`ve been unemployed for 10 years, they leave you alone most of the time if you do the worthless little courses on how to type your cover letter, and use email

      get the tards having tantrums and all shouting and screaming about all the courses being the same, then they get sanctioned and made homeless and taken away by the police

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: DWP

      ", just imagine not needing a loan or help starting a business!!!! Now I'm bringing in close to £2.5k a month on my own, and still I get hassle from the job centre about providing proof of my income. I don't need their help or trust their advisors at all."

      Impressive, but I wonder if you've remembered to keep up the NI contributions necessary to continue to be eligible to claim JSA if the market hits a sticky patch?

      Oops, you didn't?

      Perhaps you should....

      1. Zmodem

        Re: DWP

        they will make you sell your house after a year, or on day 1 if your mortage is more then £300

  24. Matt_payne666

    I appreciate that this sort of project costs a LOT of money to design and implement, hardware, licencing, bespoke software. Training and conversion of legacy data...

    how are the tenders actually presented? Do the companies produce a PowerPoint without an estimated cost?

    surely, if the winner of the contract is unable to deliver on tine or within a reasonable shot of the quote, then they should be accountable? It would stop these greedy sods from just milking the fat government cash cow.

    in half tempted to tender next time... Sort the problem for a monkey, in 6 weeks... A few years and a hundred million or so later i could call from my new, suspiciously expensive yacht that actually it might not be a good idea to continue, but thanks for the cash...

  25. smudge

    No totally digital service?

    " such example of a totally digital service was being used by businesses in the UK - such as the banking sector - that involved the delicate and complex processing of an individual's finances..."

    Who'd have guessed it? Who knew?

    Somewhere behind the cash machine and the cheque reader machine at my bank, behind the POS terminals that I encounter everywhere, behind my electronic account statements.... there is still an army of clerks in a massive room with rows of desks, each clerk scratching away at a ledger with a quill pen.

    Or am I misunderstaninding the twat?

  26. loser

    I'm confused by the comments regarding the accounting policy re. 5 year depreciation and how useful the software may be. The depreciation will reduce the book value to nil, but this doesn't necessarily mean anything in terms of the intrinsic value to the business of these assets. many, many businesses have assets with zero book value which actually had a great deal of on-going value (revenue) to the business. many value investors have become very rich buying companies where book value (the accounting view) is valued by the market at much less than the economic value (intrinsic value). Furniture is often written off over five years, does a table really stop being useful over 5 years just because it hasbeen fully depreciated??

  27. Ancient Oracle funkie

    Having worked at 3 large organisations and implemented systems for public sector clients that range from adding an extra module to f*cking enormous systems (whereby I can honestly say it is the world's largest ...) I can shed no light on this latest fiasco.

    What I can say is that, in the wordsof the Sex Pisols, no one is innocent.

    I'm sure the IT vendors take advantage, just a pity none of those ill-gotten gains trickle down to us folk who actually work bloody hard. But the public sector is just as culpable. The reason that 3rd party vendors get involved was so governments could shift the money from operating costs to capital costs. MAde it look like they were investing in the public sector while driving costs down. It was also in an attempt (only partally successful) to replace a multitude of bespoke systems with COTS packages, which in theory is cheaper to support.

    One of the comments hit the nail on the head, they get what they ask for, not what they need. Giving them what they need can be problematic. In one memorable, but ultimately doomed, project I spent many a happy meeting discussing the word "or" in a requrement that not only gave us their requirement but aso a couple of alternative solutions. So not only was I forced to use their solution as specified, I had the argument that went "But when we say OR we mean we want both" which technically couldn't be done. In the end I was allowed to give them just the one solution but at the cost of my contact feeling as if he'd somehow lost.

    My last project (the world's largest ...) never seems to hit the headlines any more. It was big and it was (almost certainly) expensive but ...

    ... it works! Trust me, if it didn't it would on the front page of thenational dailies not just the computer press. So they are not all didaster stories.

    I'll leave you with a story that might help to explain why it's always the same old vendors "ripping off" the taxpayer. And it's funny how ripping off the public sector can still mean that we make a loss on the deal!

    A previous employer was one of only three organisations to tender for a large PFI deal. We asked teh question "What would happen if we were the only bidders?" to which the reply was an aloof, "Don't be silly!". As more detail became available both of the other companies had withdrawn. We stayed the course, implemented and outsourced, and it was all a great success. The initial 7 year deal was extended and at the end of that extension, the staff we outsourced were taken back by their original employers and hee we are 15 years later and the client is STILL using the (upgraded) systems we implemented. As I said, not always a disaster

  28. Primus Secundus Tertius

    Why not just use a spreadsheet

    With projects like UC I always ask, "Why can't they just use a spreadsheet?".

    OK, in the real world there are reasons. But it would help in putting together a project plan if those reasons were spelled out: to the taxpayers, to the minister, to the civil servants, and in particular to the contractors.

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