Tories demand answers over Scottish Government’s social security system

Scottish Conservatives want answers over the Scottish Government's new social security IT system
Scottish Conservatives want answers over the Scottish Government's new social security IT system
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The Scottish Conservatives have sought assurances that Scotland’s new social security IT system will be fit for purpose in the wake of problems with Scottish Government and public sector computer systems.

The new social security IT system is set to be that single largest computer project that the Scottish Government has ever had to deliver.

It has been estimated that it will cost £190 million and take four years to complete.

But a series of spiralling computer costs for existing systems has led to the Tories questioning the Scottish Government’s record on IT and challenge ministers to ensure the same mistakes are not repeated.

The Conservatives pointed to the answer to a Freedom of Information request that showed the core Scottish Government lost £178,000 when a new flexi work system was cancelled because of “performance issues.”

While the Scottish Prison Service lost £440,000 of taxpayers’ money trying to build a new finance system. The Electronic Procurement System was suspended when “a number of technical difficulties were discovered” during the pilot phase.

Other examples of IT problems included the Common Agricultural Policy Futures programme. The original business case set out costs of £50m for the IT system. In April 2015 this was revised with costs now expected to total £129m for the system by the end of the programme, an increase of 158 per cent.

Other IT systems to experience rising costs include one for NHS 24. The original business case for NHS 24 set out a cost of £75.8m, however the 2015/16 audit of the project estimated that total final costs would be £131.2m, an increase of 73 per cent.

Scottish Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “This is simply further evidence of the SNP’s cavalier approach to spending hard-working taxpayers’ money. These are large sums and important projects but they pale into insignificance in comparison to the importance and scale of the new social security system the SNP must implement.

“How can we possibly believe they have the capability to implement a social security system that will be fit for purpose and not simply waste more money?”

The Scottish Prison Service said a “conscious decision” had been made to halt its pilot IT system rather than risk further public money on it.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are determined to create a social security system for Scotland that is fair and treats people with respect.”