IT system for MP expenses watchdog sees costs spiral

Written by John Johnston on 22 May 2019 in News

A total of more than £8m has been spent on the tech platform

Credit: CROFT MALCOLM CROFT/PA Archive/PA Images

Parliament's expenses watchdog has seen the cost of its multimillion-pound new IT system nearly doubled.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) estimated its new digitised expenses system would cost £4.6m to build and would be up and running by 2017-18.

But over three years later, the system is still not fully functional – and the bill has soared to more than £8.25m. Ipsa chiefs have said the "unexpected" general election in 2017 was partly to blame for the rise in costs.

In response to a written question from MPs, the parliamentary body said the overspend was also driven by a "longer than anticipated" testing phase.

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"The increase in cost was due in part to the unexpected General Election of June 2017 which diverted all Ipsa work for up to nine months to supporting MPs who left or joined parliament, and increased supplier costs," they said.

"Costs also increased following our change of suppliers in September 2018 to improve the quality of Ipsa's IT support. Ipsa also spent longer than anticipated on testing the new system so that Ipsa could have confidence that it would be fully secure and free of technical problems. The increases in cost have been partly mitigated by savings elsewhere in Ipsa's budget."

Ipsa, who are also responsible for setting MP's salaries, say the new digitised system will ultimately cut costs for taxpayers as MPs and their staff will spend less time filing paper receipts.

"MPs and staff no longer need to send Ipsa paper receipts and invoices through the post, but can scan and photograph them and upload them to Ipsa digitally," they said. "The new system can also reimburse MPs’ staff directly rather than via the MP. On the basis of the experience so far, Ipsa estimate that MPs will need to spend around 30 per cent less time overall on the new system than they did on the old one."

The group admitted the system would need further improvements in "due course" after feedback from parliamentarians.



About the author

John Johnston is a political reporter for PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared

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