The £57m efficiency drive that cost £81m

Transport department accused of 'stupendous incompetence'

Transport ministers showed "stupendous incompetence" in leaving taxpayers an £81m bill for an efficiency drive designed to save the department millions of pounds, MPs said.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee condemned the "lamentable" handling of the scheme to cut back-office costs at the Department for Transport, "one of the worst cases of project management" they had seen.

Problems were so severe that efforts to share personnel, payroll and other services between the DfT and agencies such as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) left staff dealing with computer systems which give messages in German.

The shared service centre in Swansea had been intended to cost £55m but make £112m in savings – which would have given an overall cut of £57m. Instead, the latest estimates show that the programme will cost £121m and save just £40m, leaving taxpayers with a bill of £81m.

In a report published today, the MPs blame senior officials in the department for the fiasco, but warned that "despite the extent of mismanagement in this case, no individuals have been dismissed or properly held to account".

Officials told MPs that staff involved in the failed project had suffered "consequences" including lost bonuses.

But the committee said axing bonuses was not "adequate punishment", adding: "Bonuses should only be awarded for good performance ... simply taking them away does not constitute an adequate punishment for [this] particularly poor performance."

The MPs said only two of the department's seven agencies were using the new centre. Users of the new computer system had "little confidence", apparently, while the new shared service centre was failing to meet performance targets.

Edward Leigh, the Public Accounts Committee's chairman, said: "The Department for Transport planned and implemented its shared corporate services project with stupendous incompetence. This is one of the worst cases of project management seen by this committee. The plan was for the central part of the DfT and its seven agencies to be sharing services by April 2008. The Department knew that it was pushing things with such a tight timetable but, without robust challenge to such a risky strategy, ploughed on confidently.

"The result was lamentable. The underlying computer system was inadequately procured and tested, resulting in an unstable setup when it was switched on. DfT staff do not trust the system which is hardly surprising when we hear that on occasion it took to issuing messages in German. So far only the central department and two of its agencies are using it."

The report criticised transport department officials for failing to put the work to build the new system out to tender, and said they had tried to implement their cost-saving plan too fast, leaving little time for testing.

Transport department civil servants insisted that the cost of the project had been estimated over the next six years, and that they would keep trying to produce savings. "As with any large-scale, and long-term project, there have been aspects of shared services that have taken longer to implement than others," a Department for Transport spokesman said. "However, the system is now starting to deliver real change within the department with smoother and more streamlined processes."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game