The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission – the successor to the troubled Child Support Agency (CSA) – is not operating a new IT system in spite of a £50 million contract being signed two years ago with Tata Consultancy Services.
The contract was intended to replace a failing system at the CSA, built by EDS. Troubles with case processing led to 75,000 cases being managed on paper, and many issues were attributable to problems on the system. In October 2009, over 1,000 problems remained on the old system and 400 were effectively unsolvable with no “workaround” available.
A new report by the Work and Pensions Committee says it has “sought assurances” from the body that the investment in a new system “would continue to represent value for money” and would deliver what is planned.
The commission's new system represents a move away from the EDS bespoke software to a simpler off-the-shelf software based around Oracle Siebel customer relationship management and the TCS BaNCS banking platform.
The committee warned that the transition to a new system would require “significant resources”, and indicated it was concerned about whether the body had demonstrated it was capable of meeting these challenges.
A spokesperson for the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission said that following the MPs' report it will ensure there is no confusion about how the new system will be implemented. "There will be no direct migration of CSA cases to the TCS IT system," the spokesman said, adding:
"The TCS system is being developed specifically for the future child maintenance scheme which is well on course to be launched in 2012. It was never the Commission's intention that the new system would be used to manage Child Support Agency cases.
"IT problems have been at the root of many of the CSA's troubles over the years and while the current CS2 system will never be perfect , it is at least functioning well enough to carry on managing CSA cases as we prepare to close them down and gradually introduce the future scheme."
He said the new system would go live towards the end of 2012 and conceded that this could mean the Commission could be running the current Child Support IT systems for several years.
The Commons select committee warned, “The enormous IT problems experienced with the previous child support systems caused huge disruption and distress to parents and this must not be repeated,” it said.
“We request an assurance from the government that CMEC will have the resources and staff it needs to manage the transition effectively and that the new IT system will not be introduced until it has been demonstrated that it works as it should.”
Tata Consultancy Services refused to comment.