DWP Process Systems Mismatch Messes Up Benefits

Bob Styran, IT audit expert
November 25, 2010 /

Incompatibility in IT process systems used by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has driven payments of benefits to as high as £1.1 billion and another £500 million worth of underpayments, the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed.

During the launching of NAO’s report, its head Amyas Morse lamented that however committed the DWP is in curtailing its administrative error cost, no significant reductions have transpired since 2007. Morse pointed to a deeper comprehension of the costs and benefits of different interventions as a means of reducing administrative error costs.

NAO’s report noted that about 140 of DWP’s process systems have become hard to update because most of its computers are standalone and quite old. It added that this makes accessing information between different systems within DWP relatively difficult.

As if left with no other options, NAO suggested that DWP use double-keying when inputting data. Most businesses have ceased from using it today. DWP used double-keying 10 years ago to check whether data inputted are accurate.

NAO said making even slight changes to the screen display of the process systems of benefits is quite complicated because a mismatch between the process codes and message being keyed in might cause transcription or typographical error.

Unless the DWP finds the best solution to integrate its benefits process systems, there will be limits to the general impact on administrative errors, NAO noted. NAO said implementation of the Universal Credit could lessen manual intervention, thus an improvement in process systems integration.

Feedbacks from the department staff after a series of focus groups and interviews revealed that there has been poor training ground with regards to the technicalities of the process systems. The staff also complained that the materials were quite “out-dated, incomplete and did not mirror the real work.”

However, NAO said strategies to determine and correct the problem have been successful, particularly data matching. NAO’s report stated that data matching could help DWP in preventing errors again and improving integration of its process systems.

 

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