Head of MPA to MPs “I am not actually sure that DWP has set out Universal Credit budget at the moment”.
Heads of NAO and MPA talk about the finer points
of project management auditing – MPs watch
Today the Head of the Major Projects Authority (MPA), a unit in the Cabinet Office, gave evidence to Margaret Hodge MP and the powerful Public Accounts Committee.
He revealed that the ‘reset’ Universal Credit Project budget is still unagreed, confirming my observation 2 weeks ago that DWP have not yet secured the agreement of HM Treasury to proceed with the project at the scale needed to meet the declared 2017 deadline for 15 million people in 9 million households to be paid under the new scheme.
MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee were promised that the ‘reset’ business case would be approved by Treasury ‘mid-April’. DWP was so sure of this that the promise was quoted in the MPs report published on the 2nd April:
Today the Head of the Major Project Authority (MPA), John Manzoni, in the last two minutes of the hearing confirmed that “I am not actually sure that DWP has set out Universal Credit budget at the moment”.
This came after other revelations:
One: Manzoni told MPs that ministers told him to invent “reset” category to classify Universal Credit under a “Ministerial Agreement”.
Two: The blank ‘reset’ status in this month’s MPA report is already more than 6 months out of date (Sept 2013). Manzoni refused to reveal the MPA’s March 2014 assessment to MPs when asked. He said that MPs would have to wait until May 2015 to find out what the current state of the project is. This will be after the General Election.
Three: Until the Treasury give approval, DWP only have 3 full-time staff actually working on the ‘reset’ digital solution (a.k.a. the all singing/dancing Universal Credit v3.0 that is promised to handle a whopping 100 claimants by the end of this year).
Four: the recently appointed Universal Credit Programme Director, Howard Shiplee is still suffering from a major illness and has not been in post for three months
Five: Even though 16 months have passed since the Feb 2013 ‘reset’ of the Universal Credit project, the MPA have no more than “not particularly specific, outline plans” from DWP
In another side comment, Manzoni revealed that DWP is planning to roll-out the present temporary Universal Credit v2.0 system to “do couples in the summer and families in the autumn”. (At the moment only the plainest ‘vanilla’ single claimants who can leap over 27 pre-condition hurdles can apply for Universal Credit).
Some other observations that I live Tweeted: