DWP accused of hiding universal credit failings18 August 2014
Iain Duncan Smith is under further scrutiny as the public accounts committee accuses his department of obscuring problems with the universal credit scheme.
Parliament’s public spending accused ministers in the DWP of hiding the failings of the coalition’s troubled universal credit scheme.
Ministers started implementing UC three years ago, but have been criticised by successive watchdogs for failing to come clean about the problems the DWP has experienced with the technology.
The assessment comes in a report by MPs on the Major Projects Authority, the government watchdog responsible for assessing the scheme’s implementation.
According to the report, the DWP, in consultation with the MPA, published their delivery confidence assessment of the universal credit project as “reset” in September 2013. It was a new term that appeared to have been devised specifically for the the new programme, committee members said.
“We are particularly concerned that the decision to award a ‘reset’ rating to the universal credit project was an attempt to keep information secret and prevent scrutiny,” the report said.
“The ‘reset’ category was introduced for the 2013-14 report and was only applied to this one project. The MPA confirmed that the decision to give universal credit a reset rating was ultimately made by ministers,” it added.
The decision to devise a new rating for the project meant that it was not given a rating by the MPA on its five-tier traffic light system, running from green to red, in this year’s annual report and that there will be no assessment of its progress until after next May.
“This is a long time to wait for an update on a project as important as universal credit,” the report conlcuded.