HC Deb 18 January 2000 vol 342 cc429-30W
Mr. Field

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what progress he has made in developing the Debt Accounting and Management System for debt recovery; and when he expects the system to be operational. [104659]

Angela Eagle

The administration of benefits is a matter for Peter Mathison, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from Peter Mathison to Mr. Frank Field, dated 17 January 2000: I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Question asking what progress the Benefits Agency has made in developing the Debt Accounting and Management system; and when we expect it to be operational. The Debt Accounting and Management system was intended to provide a means of accounting for and assisting in the control and management of benefit overpayment debt. Development of the solution was based on a commercially available software package. Once work was underway, it became clear that because of the complex nature of BA business processes that this would not be feasible as originally envisaged. It was agreed that it would be more appropriate to incorporate this into the wider work being carried out as part of the Departmental Modernisation Programme. The decision not to proceed with DAMS resulted in the need for a different solution to the difficulties surrounding benefit debt accounting and management. The Strategic Debt Solution Project was initiated to draw on the knowledge gained from DAMS and to provide a set of solutions that would allow the BA to progress to a strategic solution that supports a wider debt management requirement. The aim of the Strategic Debt Solution [SDS] Project is underpinned by six high level objectives:

  1. 1. Over the lifetime of the solution, to contribute towards meeting Resource Accounting and Budgeting [RAB] requirements by making stepped improvements
  2. 2. To report Benefit debt balances as accurately as possible, in the absence of an integrated end to end debt management and accounting system
  3. 3. To implement, maintain and monitor a range of internal controls within the debt management process
  4. 4. To identify a strategic solution for debt management and accounting working in conjunction with the Departmental Modernisation Programme
  5. 5. To raise the profile of debt management and improve debt management capability
  6. 6. To optimise the investment to date and any future spend
An Options Appraisal is currently being carried out in order to identify the solution that most effectively meets these aims and objectives. The Options Appraisal involves identifying and confirming: The weaknesses of the current debt management and accounting processes and systems The high level requirements for improved processes and systems The various options available for meeting these requirements The completion of the Options Appraisal is planned for April 2000. The detailed requirements for the preferred option will then be developed in a Full Study, which will be completed by August 2000. I hope this is helpful.

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