The Guardian reports today:

High street banks have delayed the introduction of a new payments clearance system that would reduce the time it takes to move money between accounts from days to seconds.

The Office of Fair Trading and the Treasury had put pressure on the banks to replace existing three-day payment clearing, which dates back to the Victorian era, with electronic age speed. But the banks – which earn interest from customers’ cash while it is stuck between accounts – said yesterday that the scheme was delayed by six months.

Apacs, which represents the banks, promised in December 2005 that the faster payments service would go live in November this year. But Apacs said yesterday that while the main infrastructure was working, the trials between banks and between each bank and the centre were more time consuming and more complicated than anticipated.

The faster payments service was originally due to cost the banks £50m to £65m including distributing millions of hand held “chip and pin at home” machines to ensure online account holders could authenticate transactions. Now it is expected to cost substantially more.

Which is, of course, not a government IT disaster at all.  In fact, there is nothing in the article which suggests any kind of disaster, though no doubt it’s a story Apacs would prefer not to have to see.

Seven years ago, Intelligent Finance was going to be the trendy new online version of the Halifax – and then all of a sudden it wasn’t.  That was a tad embarrassing, since the advertising campaign was already underway.  It finally creaked into life five months late.  But some Inland Revenue people were understandably irritated that it was planned system downtime for their new online tax filing service which got coverage in the news pages rather than in the business section.

Two or three years after that, I remember watching Peter Gershon lambasting a conference load of IT company executives with data showing that IT projects were generally late, over budget, and under specification – with little difference between those in the private and public sector.

Government IT disasters continue to be a problem.  But government IT problems still seem more readily to be disasters.



  1. [Re: Government IT problems being disasters rather more easily] Cranfield has some rather nice research (from surveys of its clients, so intuitively rather than academically compelling) about how rarely private sector IT projects deliver promised benefits. But the same lecturers who present that research will then present almost exclusively public sector case studies about the failure of IT projects – principally because the NAO kindly writes them up so nicely in public for them.

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