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Government can’t even give away free money

Summary:
One for the Annals of Government Failure:A damning report into a disastrous £178 million Scottish government IT project that has left farmers without vital grants has uncovered a series of errors which will now have to be fixed at even greater cost to the taxpayer.One of us has direct business experience of building IT systems. This is not good news:One of the main problems has been a lack of documentation showing how the system was put together.The report said: “The level of documentation is poor and is a critical risk to future stability. In many cases design documents don’t exist, in many others the design document does not match what has been built”In one passage on corners being cut, the experts said: “It is evident that quality has been compromised in many areas (including

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One for the Annals of Government Failure:

A damning report into a disastrous £178 million Scottish government IT project that has left farmers without vital grants has uncovered a series of errors which will now have to be fixed at even greater cost to the taxpayer.

One of us has direct business experience of building IT systems. This is not good news:

One of the main problems has been a lack of documentation showing how the system was put together.

The report said: “The level of documentation is poor and is a critical risk to future stability. In many cases design documents don’t exist, in many others the design document does not match what has been built”

In one passage on corners being cut, the experts said: “It is evident that quality has been compromised in many areas (including architecture, design, analysis, coding, testing, governance, quality assurance of design, coding and implementation) to expedite delivery.”

What has been built isn't what was planned and no one does know what has been built because there is no documentation. There're just bits of code which interact but, unfortunately, don't work. No one knows why either.

But this is worse than just yet another government IT system which doesn't work. There are only 18,500 Scottish farmers getting subsidies in the first place. The IT system cost here is thus near £10,000 per farmer. And note, that's the cost just of the system to work out who to give the free money to.

OK, it's not really free money as we've all paid the taxes to the EU which then comes back as farm subsidies. But viewed in isolation it is.

It's not even that the system is complicated. Most of it is area payments, we know the size of the farms. If one clerk processed one farmer per day then a hand wavey estimate of the running cost of the system, purely on paper, would be £4 million a year.

This is an excellent example of why we want to have minimal government. Simply because government's not a good way of doing things. Really, we ask you, spending the thick end of £200 million to fail to give free money to under 20,000 people. This isn't a system we want to use for very much, is it?

Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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