Over £26m wasted by Defra on IT projects

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has spent more than £26 million over the last five years on IT projects that have never reached completion.

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The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has spent more than £26 million over the last five years on IT projects that have never reached completion.

Three major projects, totalling £26.29 million, were written off, whilst several other smaller projects have also been abandoned.

When asked whether any of the expenditure wasted would be recouped, a Defra spokesperson claimed that "commercial considerations" would dictate whether, and how, any money would come back.

Defra has hit the headlines recently when they were forced to cull 1,400 jobs after a National Audit Office report found that they had twice set budgets including money that they did not have to spend.

They also courted controversy in January when Defra’s Rural Payments Agency required a huge modification to a computerised single payments system for farmers which will cost the government around £300 million in possible EU fines.

The three schemes that were cancelled include a database of information for the department's "customers", an electronic log of paperwork and a list of people holding licences for exotic animals, including butterflies, turtles and otters.

Officials spent £12.6 million and complete a large scale pilot for the the Catalyst Project, a programme to provide a central repository of all electronic information, before abandoning the project.

The Phoenix IT project, an initiative to manage licences for protected species covered by international conventions, was canned after almost £4 million was spent.

The department spent £10 million on a project called the Customer Information Programme (CIP) that was supposed to give Defra improved customer information on the 18 customer segments that it works with, including primary producers, the energy industry and food processing businesses.

Defra would not comment on whether the decision to slash these projects was based on OGC (Office of Government Commerce) Gateway Reviews. OGC conducts reviews of major public sector projects at key points in their lifecycle to assess whether they are sure of progressing to the next stage of development.

“Defra regularly assesses its IT projects, monitoring expenditure and delivery of outcomes," a spokesperson for Defra commented: This rigorous control, based on government-wide project management guidelines means that sometimes we have to respond to departmental changes, legislative requirements and funding allocations by cancelling projects where, in the long run, that represents the best value for money for the taxpayer.”

It is not the first time IT projects have caused difficulty for Defra. The Single Farm Payment scheme

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has spent more than £26 million over the last five years on IT projects that have never reached completion.

Three major projects, totalling £26.29 million, were written off, whilst several other smaller projects have also been abandoned.

When asked whether any of the expenditure wasted would be recouped, a Defra spokesperson claimed that "commercial considerations" would dictate whether, and how, any money would come back.

Defra has hit the headlines recently when they were forced to cull 1,400 jobs after a National Audit Office report found that they had twice set budgets including money that they did not have to spend.

They also courted controversy in January when Defra’s Rural Payments Agency required a huge modification to a computerised single payments system for farmers which will cost the government around £300 million in possible EU fines.

The three schemes that were cancelled include a database of information for the department's "customers", an electronic log of paperwork and a list of people holding licences for exotic animals, including butterflies, turtles and otters.

Officials spent £12.6 million and complete a large scale pilot for the the Catalyst Project, a programme to provide a central repository of all electronic information, before abandoning the project.

The Phoenix IT project, an initiative to manage licences for protected species covered by international conventions, was canned after almost £4 million was spent.

The department spent £10 million on a project called the Customer Information Programme (CIP) that was supposed to give Defra improved customer information on the 18 customer segments that it works with, including primary producers, the energy industry and food processing businesses.

Defra would not comment on whether the decision to slash these projects was based on OGC (Office of Government Commerce) Gateway Reviews. OGC conducts reviews of major public sector projects at key points in their lifecycle to assess whether they are sure of progressing to the next stage of development.

“Defra regularly assesses its IT projects, monitoring expenditure and delivery of outcomes," a spokesperson for Defra commented: This rigorous control, based on government-wide project management guidelines means that sometimes we have to respond to departmental changes, legislative requirements and funding allocations by cancelling projects where, in the long run, that represents the best value for money for the taxpayer.”

 
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