MPs have warned plans to break up the tax collecting computer system used by HM Revenue & Customs risk becoming the latest Government IT “disaster”.
The Aspire computer system provides 650 IT programmes which help the Revenue collect tax. According to a recent National Audit Office report it accounts for 84 per cent of HMRC’s IT spend and £506bn was collected through it last year.
The Times reports HMRC is now looking to replace the £800m a year contract with its main contractor Capgemeni with a series of smaller ones by 2017, when the current contract is up for renewal.
Public administration select committee chair Bernard Jenkin told the newspaper: “It would be a mistake to run before you can walk. Unless there are people in HMRC with the necessary skills in managing a number of smaller contracts then you will be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.”
Fellow committee member Conservative MP Richard Bacon added: “There is noting more critical than getting tax in, and you can’t start relying on hundreds of experimental start-ups taking this over. The potential for another disaster is huge.
“I am a great believer in getting smaller companies in, but if you split the project up into 100 pieces, you need 500 skilled people to manage it. You cannot afford to get this wrong.”
The contract with Campgemeni was extended to 2017 before the Cabinet Office published a series of “red lines” for IT contracts in January, including a £100m limit on IT contracts unless there is “an exceptional reason”.
An NAO report in January found Aspire had seen few significant service failures. But it also found that as a result of HMRC adding more work to the original contract and failing to ensure it was getting value for money, Capgemeni’s profit on the 10-year contract rose from an estimated £500m to £1.2bn.