3 Overall assessment |
15. We remain cautious about this request for Section
82 expenditure. When we took evidence from those DWP officials
involved in the project they gave an account of their expertise
in carrying through projects of this type.
However, as the Comptroller and Auditor General observes, there
is considerable uncertainty inherent in the early stages of a
major IT project, for example:
- "The actual extent to
which existing [computer] code can be reused may be greater or
lesser than [assumed] which may result in the actual costs incurred
during development being more or less than estimated."
- "While Pension Credit is the most recent,
relevant project to which Employment and Support Allowance can
be compared, there can be no guarantee that the out-turn of the
two projects will correspond in profile as assumed."
- "If development of the new IT system turns
out to be more difficult than the Department currently expects,
this could have a knock-on effect on the costs of the whole project
and could also threaten delivery by the target date."
16. We do not believe that there are grounds for
the House to reject this request for Section 82 approval. The
ESA is an important new benefit and we do not wish to stand in
the way of measures that we are told by DWP will ensure its orderly
and timely implementation. However our cautious approval has caveats.
We asked in our previous Report for a detailed out-turn Report,
and we will study this closely. We reserve the right to ask the
officials concerned to come back before us if we are not satisfied
and it is within our purview to seek a debate on the floor of
the House as part of an Estimates Day if we are unhappy with the
way the authorised expenditure has been used. We also intend to
keep a watching brief on the ESA project as a whole as it proceeds,
as we have considerable concerns about the 8% increase in total
estimated project costs that has already taken place.
17. We stated in our last Report that we would
at this stage recommend whether the debate on the final Report
should take place in a Delegated Legislation Committee or on the
floor of the House. We recommend that the debate on this final
Section 82 Report takes place in a Delegated Legislation Committee.
We hope that the membership will include at least two members
of the Work and Pensions Committee.
18 Work and Pensions Committee, Fifth Report of Session
2005-06, Power to incur expenditure under Section 82 of the
Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999: new Employment and Support
Allowance IT System, HC (2005-06) 1648, para 55 Back
Appendix 2, para 7 Back
Appendix 2, para 8 Back
Appendix 2, para 10 Back