Public set for “havoc” over HMRC IT contract changes

The Public Accounts Committee has accused HM Revenue & Customs of a complacent attitude to its IT systems and long-awaited contract overhaul, which could result in “havoc” for tax payers.

HMRC is predicted to undergo an “enormous challenge” to replace its £7.9 billion Aspire contract, which manages all hardware and software, by its expiry in 2017.

Under changes to governmental contracts, large contracts amounting to more than £100 million in value are required to be broken up into smaller contracts below that value; but according to the MPs of the Public Accounts Committee, HMRC is lacking the procurement expertise to secure contracts that are value for money and deliver quality service.

The Public Accounts Committee said: “HMRC demonstrates little appreciation of the scale of the… enormous challenge in moving to a new contracting model by 2017 and appears overly complacent given the scale of the transformation required.”

Although HMRC decided three years ago to move in principle to a new contracting model it still does not have a detailed business case for the change although this was originally expected before July 2014.”

The Public Accounts Committee has published a report listing its recommendations and conclusions after studying the HMRC contract situation:

  • The department needs to establish a clear business case to replace the Aspire contract.
  • As part of this, a contingency plan should be in place in the event of a failed or disrupted transition and mitigate problems to customer service or tax collection.
  • Develop a “clear view” of how the new model fits into the department’s long term tax plan.
  • Create a plan to recruit technical, operational and commercial expertise for procurement.
  • HMRC, with the Cabinet Office, should agree a set of milestones to keep the project on track with the Cabinet Office supporting the HMRC project.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “We are making significant progress in preparing for a smooth and effective transition from the Aspire contract… the rapid development of new digital services will improve the experience of customers when they need to deal with us.”

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