back to article Judge orders Universal Credit internal reviews must be disclosed

The jury is still out as to whether Britain's Universal Credit will go down as one of the major IT disasters of our time. This is mainly because the UK Department for Work and Pensions tore up the original project, started again and then moved the completion date multiple times. The total lifetime cost of the project has …

  1. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Mushroom

    I disagree with your opening statement ...

    "The jury is still out as to whether Universal Credit will go down as one of the major IT disasters of our time. "

    Who cares what this "jury" thinks ? I know what *I* think.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I disagree with your opening statement ...

      Indded and in my judgemt the government, or Emporer, got some new clothes and was only willing to here how good they looked.

      Yes, Civil Servants could have told them they were in the all together but those kind of Civil Servants tend to be pushed asside rather quickly as the Emporer only wants to be surrounded by those with admiring looks.

  2. Cynical Observer
    FAIL

    Really

    The crux of the argument against disclosure appears to be concerns over the precedent it would set, preventing civil servants from giving frank written advice out of fear it would later be released. This is what the government calls a "chilling effect", preventing officials and politicians from recording decisions because they may get released under FOI.

    If these people are issuing advice about systems and regulations that so significantly affects the lives of so many people, then it should be robust and able to stand the test of time. I for one want to know if the same collection of <insert pejorative> are making asinine recommendation after recommendation without any checks to see if they get it right or wrong.

    Think of it as an incentive - if you take away their safety blanket of anonymity, it will encourage them to get up of their collective arses, do the research, do the work and deliver accordingly.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Really

      Nice idea, but it would only be effective if there were any actual repercussions for not "... get[ting] up of[f] their collective arses, do[ing] the research, do[ing] the work and deliver[ing] accordingly." This is unlikely to be the case - a civil servant's career progression is decided by different criteria than most of us would recognise, and it has very little to do with actually delivering the stated result.

      1. redangelas

        Re: Really

        When programs are written and designed by Civil Servants they are at least coded by people who expect to be around for all phases of the development, including implementation and support.

        When work is outsourced, unless the management is abnormally competent, hapless contractors are dragged into a sytem they don't understand and told what they are expected to do by managers who are trying to deal with continual changes to poor specifications. All the contactors can do is take the money, do the best they can, and clear off sharpish before any smelly stuff hits the fan.

      2. KeithR

        Re: Really

        "a civil servant's career progression is decided by different criteria than most of us would recognise, and it has very little to do with actually delivering the stated result."

        I know you like to think you're "plugged in" and cleverer than the rest of us, but PLEASE - enough of this made-up crap, eh?

  3. 2460 Something

    Reality Check

    I wonder how many resignations are going to be submitted after the disparity between the reports and what was actually announced to the general public. It is completely disgusting the way these government departments seek to avoid disclosing information that is pertinent to transparency because they know how much damage it will do to the management teams behind decisions. I expect a few falling on their swords with ridiculous golden parachutes to protect the true culprits behind the abysmal and systematic mess that is DWP and Universal Credit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reality Check

      It's hard to believe that IDS didn't know what a mess the project was and that he didn't push it along in the face of opposition so he's got be top of the list of those falling on their swords....... but I doubt it'll happen somehow it'll turn out that it wasn't his fault or that he's found some statistics to show that all is going well and it's a brilliant idea.....

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Reality Check

        IDS won't resign because IDS has a photo of David Cameron and a pig.

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Reality Check

        but I doubt it'll happen somehow it'll turn out that it wasn't his fault or that he's found some statistics to show that all is going well and it's a brilliant idea.....

        IDS doesn't need statistics. He only has to believe.

      3. EastFinchleyite

        Re: Reality Check

        IDS has gone but I don't think it was through a sense of shame about the mess he has created. That would not be possible or plausible; the man has no shame.

        I think he is fully aware and like all well informed rats, he is leaving a sinking ship. Stephen Crabb must be really stupid to take on this job.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Reality Check

      It should be just the only one.

      The vampire in chief himself.

      Unfortunately, he is as likely to resign as Dracula to go vegan.

      1. Vladimir-Dracule

        Re: Reality Check

        From :- Count Vladimir Dracule, Transylvania, Romania.

        Message:- Please send Veggie Pasties & Tofu A.S.A.P.

      2. Northumbrian

        Re: Reality Check

        Unfortunately, he is as likely to resign as Dracula to go vegan.

        As of yesterday evening,Count Dracula has announced that he resigned all rights to the cattle and servants around and won't even want Whitby's wonderful fish and chips.

        One of several very interesting issues is whether the Treasury thinks that there is still time to dump UC when IDS is going and the new broom doesn't have his/her feet under the table.

    3. Fatman Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Reality Check

      <quote>I expect a few falling on their swords with ridiculous golden parachutes to protect the true culprits behind the abysmal and systematic mess that is DWP and Universal Credit.</quote>

      A much better solution would be to reward those incompetents with a lead bullet, like the Chinese do.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reality Check

      No one. That's right, no one.

      The senior management responsible will have moved departments or areas (3 year rule) by the time the ruling takes effect.

      The middle managers and the grunts* will say it was requirements creep.

      The senior and the middle managers will have got bonuses or pay rises because of managing the grunts and the expectations.

      The grunts will not have pay rises (the projects being late).

      * I was a grunt until 10 years ago.

      1. KeithR

        Re: Reality Check

        "(3 year rule)"

        Which ceased to apply about the time you disappeared...

      2. KeithR

        Re: Reality Check

        "The senior and the middle managers will have got bonuses or pay rises because of managing the grunts and the expectations."

        Doesn't happen.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DWP has fought tooth and nail against the disclosure

    I'm really not surprised, they must have realized some time ago they fucked up real bad, and well, nobody likes to own up to that, PLUS the minor issue of cost....

    What it shows though, is lack of accountability for this (yet another) mega-failure. I presume there was something like project delivery supervision / oversight, and people in charge of that supervision were, I'm sure, paid more than handsomely, to make sure the project moves along towards its completion, rather than all over the place. But hey, who supervises the supervisors? Would it be, perchance... the supervised?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, Iain Duncan Smith

    ultimate proof that Voodoo and witchcraft don't work.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Ah, Iain Duncan Smith

      They do.

      He passes the tests for signs of life.

  6. Warm Braw Silver badge

    A "chilling effect"

    Remind me who these people work for?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: A "chilling effect"

      Their future consluttancy directorships.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: A "chilling effect"

        Their future consluttancy directorships.

        What on earth is a "consluttancy"?

        It sounds like something a man of my age would be better avoiding.

        Unfortunately.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: A "chilling effect"

          Consluttancy - from:

          Con - to trick someone out of something; slut - a person of few morals who just wants to satisfy themselves. At some point a spelling error became the standard form, so we usually see it as "consultancy", though the original meaning still applies.

    2. JohnMurray

      Re: A "chilling effect"

      Work?

  7. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Talking truth to power

    It seems to me that there is a widespread problem here.

    Not just in this project, or in this type of endeavour.

    Our Lords and Masters seem to be pretty much allergic to hearing that their pet ideas won't work and voices of disagreement are marginalised.

    We seem to be living in an age of confirmation bias, where personal preference is substituted for reality, with "evidence" being selected to fit.

    Is there any proof that making all schools academies will improve anything? Of course not.

    Were local education authorities a bad thing? Not usually.

    And so on. ( And not just in education, but that's my field).

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      I wholeheartedly agree

      Good management is good; bad management is bad. That rule applies equally to the private sector as the public. But management is a detail that can't be easily fixed via legislation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I wholeheartedly agree

        Ahh yes education. Having recently discovered that my parents kept a lot of my school "output" from the 80s I can compare it with what my kids/relatives/friedns kids and others achieve today. The results seem to inidcate that todays kids aren't getting as good an education as I did.

        However, being charitable what we can say is that compared to doing nothing at all, spending billions of pounds by succesive governments as they fiddle with the system has, at best achieved nothing.

        Sadly I don't think education is the only are where this holds true.....

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: I wholeheartedly agree

          It's all very subjective. My kid sister is a primary school teacher. So I've looked at their maths homework across a class. And some of them are gob smackingly brilliant and some as dumb as I was. Maybe it goes downhill later. Or maybe it depends on the individual and the school.

          She's also busy teaching them about "fronted adverbials" and "determiners", all things I never knew at an equivalent age. And they can spell words I'd probably couldn't spell now. It's to your own taste as to whether this is "better" or even useful, in an epoch of spell checkers and auto-suggest.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: I wholeheartedly agree

            Well one of the kneejerk unproven series of changes is a strange belief that we had a golden age of education in the 50s.

            This seems to be based upon a view that rote learning is better than teaching kids to work things out, coupled with a nostalgic view of what ought to be learnt. Underlined by a moral panic because kids in Asia are expected to rote learn tons of stuff and then do better at us in test of things that have to be rote learned.

            So, I have no qualms about teaching the times tables, I taught them when there were people going round telling us we shouldn't. I even had a row with one of these people when she went into a classroom and started to bully the poor teacher about it in front of the kids. But that's a far cry from making it a national test and putting kids under pressure to remember them - a guaranteed way to make sure that plenty of kids won't be able to, (Recall is inversely proportional to stress).

            And ffs, even when we do teach them, why up to 12x12? We stopped using 12d=1 shilling when I was at school, and who needs to calculate multiples of 12" to numbers of feet these days? ( OK outside of the USA at least). The point about the 12x table thing is that it just demonstrates that the Powers that Be don't even know why they are doing it.

            1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

              Re: I wholeheartedly agree

              Mrs IP and I are just about to become parents. One thing I am trying to fit into the next 18 years is home-schooling, because their is nothing in either my memories of school, nor recent reports from parents, teachers, or university students that makes me think that warehouse education is a good thing. Teach facts where needed, but ensure that research/learning skills are always underlined. Putting teachers in a position of doing things because if they don't it reflects badly on them (OFSTEAD reports etc) is a truly stupid idea.

              1. Commswonk Silver badge

                Re: I wholeheartedly agree

                "...One thing I am trying to fit into the next 18 years is home-schooling, because their is nothing in either my memories of school, nor recent reports from parents, teachers, or university students that makes me think that warehouse education is a good thing. ...

                If you are going for home - schooling sorting out the difference between their and there might be a worthwhile pre - school activity.

                For you. :)

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: I wholeheartedly agree

              "And ffs, even when we do teach them, why up to 12x12?"

              When I was a nipper (40-something years ago) the tapes went to 12*12 but we only did up to 10*10 by rote.

              We did have to learn the long way first but memorising 100 combinations makes basic arithmetic a lot faster to do by hand.

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: I wholeheartedly agree

        Quite true. Makes you wonder why the government likes to try to fix things using legislation, instead of, um, good management.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Talking truth to power

      "Our Lords and Masters seem to be pretty much allergic to hearing that their pet ideas won't work and voices of disagreement are marginalised."

      ...voices of disagreement are marginalised silenced. There, FTFY. Been there, done that, nicked a permanent marker from the supplies cabinet and made my own t-shirt.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    House of Cards - S4E11

    (FU is being examined by a second doctor who advises him not to fly)

    Dr: You said you wanted a second opinion.

    FU: I also wanted it to be different.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UC in and of itself is a noble idea, one single easily managed benefit that reduces the massive running cost of the DWP.

    Sadly it's plagued with the usual bunch of government fuckittery and teflon shoulder pads where the people who specify and sign off the invoices get to walk away scot free.

    I propose decimation in the Roman sense for civil servants who's projects overrun.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      decimation

      Where do you get the Roman gladius these days?

      Will there need to be a public sector procurement contract?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: decimation

        > Where do you get the Roman gladius these days?

        There is one hanging on the wall in the marketing department downstairs. Along with swords of various other eras. And a few (sadly replica) firearms. And some bits of armour.

        They used to have a shelf-full of the various potable items that were sold in our shops but, alas, they removed those. I suspect it was too much temptation..

  10. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Where do you get the Roman gladius these days?

    I have a vague memory that Roman soldiers had to buy their own kit.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Where do you get the Roman gladius these days?

      > I have a vague memory that Roman soldiers had to buy their own kit.

      Sort of - the cost of their kit (and any replacement costs unless during battle) was taken out of their pay. A lot of the soldiers wanted to stay in for the full 25 years - not for the great pay (it wasn't) but for the land-grant that they would get at the end of it.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bargain

    £79K per claiment sounds like a bargain to me...

  12. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    From here to there, eventually

    The main problem with big projects seems to be that they don't just seek to fix a mess, make it work how it should, they seek to be better, and do more, and it's inevitably driven by promised cost savings rather than being the right way to do things.

    That means that, rather than doing one thing, or two things done sequentially, projects encompass far more, and it all has to be done together. And that can be a recipe for disaster even in small projects

    "KISS".

    Or maybe DevOps :-) :-) :-)

    1. annodomini2

      Re: From here to there, eventually

      The problem with big projects is they have feck all to do with efficiency or saving money or improving things.

      They are about those in charge making appearances as though their tenure actually achieved something and feeding money to those party sponsors who assisted them in getting elected.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The crux of the argument against disclosure appears to be concerns over the precedent it would set, preventing civil servants from giving frank written advice out of fear it would later be released. "

    Pretty sure this is what we'd all be happy to see (Frank written advice) as opposed to what we'd probably see which is lies, damn lies, and more lies.

    I really dislike people who go something along the lines of "They said it would be delivered on x so it will be" then you go

    "But they've never delivered on time, and when they do deliver it always takes longer than you said to deploy it, then even longer than you say to test it"

    "Stop being negative!"

  14. moiety

    SO the government doesn't want to release information about a project paid for by the public, while simultaneously trying to legislate themselves the right to pry into the public's private business.

    Well, that's not right.

  15. Tommy Pock

    Makes no difference. The courts ordered the government to release the results of an impact assessment on the Health and Social Care bill in 2012.

    The government just ignored them.

    There are 650 MPs. There are also 400,000 lampposts in London; more than enough.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "The courts ordered the government to release the results of an impact assessment on the Health and Social Care bill in 2012.

      The government just ignored them."

      Someone should haul that back into court and ask for a declaratory contempt ruling against the civil servant who's at the top of the heap.

      The idea of someone being sent downstairs to the cells until the data is released appeals a lot.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why would you want to get everyone on UC now when the cap doesn't come into effect yet and when it does it's only on new claimants?

  17. Snafu1

    <This week the First-Tier General Regulatory Chamber ruled for the second time that the documents should be released. The department now has 28 days to comply or appeal once again.>

    "Release the documents! You have 28 days to comply!"

    I'm sure ED 2016 would have a useful.. umm.. 'impact' upon proceedings.. ;)

  18. peter 45

    So what?

    No-one will be held accountable

    No-one will be punished

    No-one will be sacked

    No money will be returned

    At best some vacuous stateement will be issued saying 'lessons have be learnt....trust us'

    So whats the point?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No surprise there

    IDS the serial fuckup, fuckwit, and confirmed liar strikes again. The emperor's vanity being protected here is none other than the aforementioned waste of entropy. Cameron et al should have known better than to entrust something so vitally important to someone of such little substance when compared to others within his circle of peers. Still I have no doubt IDS' shortcomings will be only too evident soon, and then there will be no where to hide (unless of course).

    @Worstall - is that good value for money 175000 claimants £15.8 bn

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