Where are DWP’s 2012-13 accounts, and what does it mean? – Part Two
Update: November 7, 2013 00:01hrs The long awaited Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee report on the Universal Credit project has just been published. It makes grim reading. “Value not secured on £425m spent so far” says the cross-bench committee of MPs.
And the NAO confirmed to me this week that DWP’s accounts for 2012-13 are still not ready for publication…
On September 5th I was interviewed live by Annita McVeigh on BBC TV evening news. I pointed out that other commentators had not understood the gravity of the recently published NAO report on the ill-starred Universal Credit programme. I deduced that a write-off of up to £425m was being considered, and figure confirmed in today’s PASC report.
Yesterday, the Guardian got hold of a leaked internal DWP report that confirmed my logic in that interview. At least £125m (and counting) of ‘investment’ may be written off. This is up four-fold in just 6 weeks. Will the number increase further? We will only know when the options for re-starting the ill-starred Universal Credit Programme have been agreed between DWP, Cabinet Office and the Treasury. Then DWP’s Annual Report and Accounts will finally be published…
Consider this also:
1. If a Permanent Secretary is being told to ‘implement the unimplementable’, he/she must ask for a written instruction from the Minister – this is a ‘Ministerial Direction’, and absolves the Permanent Secretary from being held accountable for bad decisions.
2. New this year: a Permanent Secretary must ask for direction if a policy is probably unimplementable. (Previously a Permanent Secretary only had to do so if a policy was definitely impossible).
3. From now on, departments must make ‘Ministerial Directions’ public, with the deadline for publication at or before the day the departmental annual accounts are published.
DWP has yet to publish its 2012/13 accounts (they are now 5 months late). Together with a final estimate of the money written-off on Universal Credit so far, what else will be revealed on the day of their publication?
Update: 9/12/103: The Minister of State, Iain Duncan Smith confirms that he has issued no Ministerial Directions in his department.
Update: November 1st: Computer Weekly today got hold of a memo from the new Universal Credit Programme Director, Howard Shiplee, to Margaret Hodge, Chair of the the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), that claims:
“There is existing utility not yet deployed that, with some investment, would be scaleable through to 2017. The economic case to support this will be in the refreshed business case for agreement with [HM Treasury].”
According to Computer Weekly, DWP have, however, refused to back up the letter with any detail, and the committee of MPs have stated that the claims are “clearly inadequate”.
(For the low-down on ‘Minsterial Directions’ see the excellently written paper by Josh Harris of the Institute for Government).