Having presided over one of the biggest IT disasters of recent years — £34 million down the Swannee — Iain Duncan Smith has done the honourable thing and … knifed his department’s top civil servant in public.
In the wake of a report slamming the delivery of his flagship Universal Credit policy, non-departmental “sources close to the Work and Pensions Secretary” were in touch with Telegraph columnist Isabel Hardman, briefing that:
“it was only because it was “his baby” that he began to notice the chasm between what officials were telling him and what was really happening.”
“I’m told that “it took until February before Iain completely lost patience with his team”, and brought in outsiders to clean up the project.”
So having having “completely lost patience with his team” by February, the following month he told the Commons — in response to a question on the impact of changes to Universal Credit on the already “drastic delays” and “deliverability of the IT”:
“What we are talking about will have no practical effect on the implementation of universal credit, which, by the way, is proceeding exactly in accordance with plans.”
And more lies followed. In May IDS was invited to explain why some pathfinders weren’t going ahead because the IT had been botched, with Jobcentre staff resorting to pen and paper to record details:
“The hon. Gentleman is fundamentally wrong. All the pathfinders are going ahead. The IT system is but a part of that, and goes ahead in one of the pathfinders …All that nonsense the hon. Gentleman has just said is completely untrue.”
“This system is a success. We have four years to roll it out, we are rolling it out now, we will continue the roll-out nationwide and we will have a system that works—and one that works because we have tested it properly.”
Even as late as July his fantasy continued. Discussing “the successful launch of the pathfinder in Greater Manchester, on time”:
“The pathfinder exercise has shown that the IT system works.”
Iain Duncan Smith told parliament that the system was “a success” that was “going according to plan”, dismissing an MPs’ concerns as “nonsense”, while all along Tory sources now admit — in a briefing to Hardman — he had personally “lost patience with his team” because he knew it had gone tits up.
Perhaps we shouldn’t expect any better from a man who lies about his own CV.