IT failure left Scots pension agency with £23m gap

Audit Scotland has slammed an IT project that ran into difficulties and has cost Scotland’s public sector pension body millions of pounds and “significantly” set back its planning.

The Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA) runs retirement plans for over half a million people, including NHS employees, teachers, firefighters and the police.

“A plan to integrate its pension administration and payment operations faltered when the chosen supplier, Capita, was not able to provide a working system,” said Audit Scotland.

“However, auditors say the SPPA did not apply enough scrutiny to Capita’s bid, which was abnormally low, and set an unrealistic timetable for the project.

“The pensions body spent £6.3 million on the project, which aimed to make its processes more efficient and achieve long-term savings.

“Ending the IT scheme meant it had to spend a further £2.4 million on extending contracts with existing suppliers.

“The SPPA received a sum from Capita following the settlement of a dispute but has been left with a £23m gap in its revenue and capital budget over the next five years.”

Caroline Gardner, the Auditor General for Scotland, said: “The public sector is under pressure and we are seeing more instances of bodies embarking on IT projects without the necessary staff and assurance arrangements in place to manage them properly.

“In this instance, I found no evidence of a clear business case for a new integrated system, which was pursued at a time when the SPPA was going through significant change.

“The result was a project that failed to provide value for money and has considerably set back the SPPA’s planning.”

The SPPA responded: “While the report raises important issues, there has been, and will be, no disruption to pension services.

“The SPPA is already taking steps to improve how contracts are managed and will consider the findings of the public audit and post legislative scrutiny committee when it has considered the report.

“The Scottish Government is examining the report and will be reviewing its findings.”