£81m HR shared services project slammed by MPs

An HR shared services project likely to cost the taxpayer £81m has been slammed as “one of the worst cases of project management ever seen” by a group of MPs.

The Department for Transport (DfT) scheme aimed to cut administration expenses by basing payroll, finance and personnel services all at one site in Swansea.

But MPs on the Public Accounts Committee said the project was rushed, with computer systems inadequately tested resulting in poor performance. The new computer system had even issued messages in German.

“The Department for Transport planned and implemented its shared corporate services project with stupendous incompetence,” the committee said.

“The plan was for the central part of the DfT and its seven agencies to be sharing services by April 2008. The department knew that it was pushing things with such a tight timetable but, without robust challenge to such a risky strategy, ploughed on confidently. The result was lamentable.”

The DfT initially estimated that it would cost £55m to set up the centre and that the benefits over the first 10 years would be £112m. However, current forecasts show that the net cost to the department will be £81m.

“The senior managers responsible for this failure, as in the case of other recent large-scale project failures to come before this committee, have not been properly held to account,” the committee added.

A DfT spokesman said: “As with any large-scale and long-term project, there have been aspects of shared services that have taken longer to implement than others. However, the system is now starting to deliver real change within the department with smoother and more streamlined processes.”

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