To ask the hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, pursuant to the Answer of 7 May 2019 to Question 249206 on Members: Allowances, what the (a) forecast and (b) final cost was of the new IPSA IT system; and what assessment was made of additional costs that would be incurred by MPs' staff to work on the new system.
20 May 2019
I have asked IPSA to reply.
The original April 2016 business case for IPSA’s new IT system, IPSA Online, estimated a cost of £4.641 million. At that time, IPSA expected the programme to be completed in 2017-18. The full costs of the system are now forecast to be £8.253 million.
The increase in cost was due in part to the unexpected General Election of June 2017 which diverted all IPSA work for up to nine months to supporting MPs who left or joined parliament, and increased supplier costs. Costs also increased following our change of suppliers in September 2018 to improve the quality of IPSA’s IT support. IPSA also spent longer than anticipated on testing the new system so that IPSA could have confidence that it would be fully secure and free of technical problems. The increases in cost have been partly mitigated by savings elsewhere in IPSA’s budget.
The new system administers MPs’ pay and business costs more efficiently and effectively, providing improved support to MPs and their staff while saving taxpayers’ money. MPs and their staff will benefit from these improvements by being able to access information and make changes to their staffing budget or office leases without needing to contact IPSA staff. They can now also access IPSA’s system directly through their secure parliamentary digital account without an additional logon. MPs and staff no longer need to send IPSA paper receipts and invoices through the post, but can scan and photograph them and upload them to IPSA digitally. The new system can also reimburse MPs’ staff directly rather than via the MP. On the basis of the experience so far, IPSA estimate that MPs will need to spend around 30 per cent less time overall on the new system than they did on the old one.
However, IPSA recognise that many MPs and their staff still need to get used to the new system. IPSA are therefore conducting group and one-to-one training in Parliament and have staff available on the phone to answer queries. IPSA are putting on more such training sessions in response to demand, with a regular presence in Portcullis House.
IPSA will shortly conduct a survey to gather more feedback about the new system, with plans for further improvements in due course. IPSA will report to the Speaker’s Committee for the IPSA later in the year on the overall costs and benefits of IPSA Online.