Whitehall's IT Fiascos

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The Independent Online
THE STUDENT Loans computer debacle is only the latest in a long line of government troubles with information technology. The Treasury has to be persuaded to make sufficient initial investment, and decision cycles in government take so long technology has usually changed by the time the project is complete, so systems are outdated and millions of pounds over budget. Recent computer fiascoes include:

The Student Loans Company system used for calculating payments by students was wrongly set up, costing nearly pounds 100,000, and an MPs' investigation concluded that consultants Price Waterhouse were handed the job in haste.

The Passport Office system was a pounds 230m, 10-year contract awarded to Siemens, to introduce digital scanning, cutting time for processing applications and improving security. But waiting times for new passports doubled, then tripled as the systems were introduced in May.

The Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), with Siemens again the contractor. Long backlogs in asylum applications are blamed on new computers.

Computerising ministers' "Red Boxes", replacing the physical ones with custom-built laptop PCs. Dropped quietly in January after ministers found the system unwieldy.

The National Air Traffic Services (NATS) move to a new control centre at Swanwick in Hampshire. Six years late and not ready for two more years, because of problems with the computer systems.

The pounds 150m National Insurance Recording System (NIRS2) benefits, launched 18 months late in July 1998. Suffered a "massive breakdown" in September 1998, paying money without ensuring claimants were entitled.

CRIS, the Criminal Information System, for the Metropolitan Police. Planned in 1983 and delivered four years late in 1996 by EDS.

Trawlerman, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) system to handle classified information. Two years late in 1995, when it was immediately scrapped.

MOD PROFS, an MoD office system. Terminals which could be bought for pounds 1,000 outside were costing pounds 38,000 apiece.