Government IT projects and failure are now so synonymous that it will come as no shock that the Commons Defence Select Committee has panned the implementation of the ‘Joint Personnel Administration’ (JPA) programme. Implemented by the Ministry of Defence in 2006 – at a cost of over £260 million – it was expected to realise savings of £100 million a year by joining all the administrative functions of the three armed forces together.
Sounds like a good idea. But sadly the programme has not only failed, it has failed spectacularly. The report stated:
“It is difficult to exaggerate the magnitude of the failure of the Joint Personnel Administration programme”
What adds to this mess is that the 2007/08 MoD accounts had to be qualified by the Comptroller and Auditor General, as the JPA programme led to a lack of financial controls. The report deems this ‘truly reprehensible’, as it affected crucial administrative systems. As a direct consequence of these flawed systems, thousands of servicemen and women were repeatedly underpaid. This led to one RAF Officer bringing legal action against the MoD, after trying to resolve his pay issues through official channels for over 7 months. At the other end, the MoD also had to claim back money from personnel that were overpaid.
Although obvious, it always bares repeating that the Armed Forces do a tough, amazing job for this country, so it would be correct to agree with the conclusions of the report:
“This failure, which affects pay, entitlements and service records, is unacceptable”
Quite right - and the levels of investment in these projects, ‘innovations’ that seem to fail all too often, demonstrates a recklessness that both overburdens taxpayers and lets down those fighting on the front line.