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  • Matthew Spencer - Tech Journalist

UK government MPs report: Legacy IT systems will not be replaced anytime soon

The Police National Computer (PAC) customs rig has been long queuing for updates which will have to wait a more extended period before being taken care of. The government has ‘no clear plan’ for updating the rigs or replacing legacy IT systems.



On 10 December 2021, by authority of the House of Commons published a report for the challenge in implementing digital change. The thirteenth report of session 2021-2022 by the House of Commons declared the venture.


The Committee of Public Accounts, appointed by the House of Commons for examining ‘the accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted by Parliament to meet public expenditure, and of such other accounts laid before Parliament as the committee may think fit.’


Some of the systems for vital agencies in the UK is still running since the 1970s, which is long due for an upgrade. As the documenting process is essential, and at the same time, a lot of data is generated, making it hard to handle for the current IT system.


Paying the State Pension on UK borders comes to a challenge when the adequate system fails to meet today’s requirements. It makes data crippled and process slower than needed. The report talked in-depth on ‘these systems’ as they are stable and ‘performing acceptably at a reasonable cost.’ Of course, using a legacy system saves cost but, in the long run, cripples the system, making the processing power slow. Today we are used to modern technology and faster method of communication, but the system used in legacy IT estate can’t perform as expected.


The National Audit Office revealed a 34-year-old mainframe system for ICL during September. The public spending watchdog reported it. The scandal was for £1 billion not being paid to state pensions. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said the expiry date for the 26-year-old systems was not yet over. In 2020 November, it was planned for migration seven years early. Still, we are seeing no change in the system.


The government estimated to spend around £20 billion each year to digitally change the infrastructure, making real opportunities possible for the government. It is required to update the system for the government to work with the fullest transformation to cope with modern times. Of course, for these calculations, super-powered computers are not required, but a minimum requirement is there as software and operating systems may have flaws. Even some of the software and operating systems are made obsolete by the manufacturer itself.

The PAC had planned from the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (Chief) to ensure Brexit transitions smoothly. With a cost overrun of £400 million, the Home Office’s program to replace the Police National Computer was delayed.


It was delayed by at least five years which was entirely unexpected and resulted in the cost overrun.


The matters became worst when the departments stated their limited understanding of the legacy state. Even the centre of government was having issues in learning cross-government legacy risk.


As the pandemic took its toll, the UK Civil Service faced some of the most significant challenges of its generation. According to the gov.uk publications for organising digital delivery, the coronavirus pandemic has a considerable effect. Five hundred thousand civil servants are currently engaged in delivering public services, and many of them are using a proportion of their time. Due to the Civil Service Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) function being an excellent part of this workflow.


According to PAC, at the start of 2022, CDDO will start mapping legacy systems across the government. It will note the reason for legacy systems liability and why the upgrade is required. In 2019 the government spent £2.3 billion to £4.7 billion on technology dedicated to ‘keeping the lights on.’

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