MoD bonus payments, or is that JPA chicken feed?

The MoD have had a thorough kicking over its Civil Service bonus payments but are in for a real hiding in the press when the scale of the potential losses due to errors in the much vaunted Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system become more widely known.

Towards the end of 2004 the MoD awarded a contract to EDS for the implementation of an intranet based pay and personnel administration system.

EDS were to implement a Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system for Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency which was supposed to deliver £600 million savings to the MoD over 10 years with the contract due to end in November 2009

JPA represented a key element of the MoD’s Defence Change Programme and, as a flagship project, was cited as a benchmark for future relationships between government and the IT supplier community.

Commenting on the contract award, Graham Lay, Managing Director of EDS Defence, said:

The relationship between AFPAA and EDS on JPA marks a turning point in the way suppliers and government work together to achieve the maximum benefit from partnering with each other.

EDS will significantly improve the ongoing service delivery cost within the new service structure, and has guaranteed this cost saving in the agreement signed today.

In almost every respect, this is a radical departure from the traditional supplier-customer relationship. In terms of teaming, financial gain share arrangements and delivering an agile government model this partnership sets a benchmark for the future.

This contract is consistent with the core recommendations of the Gershon Review and provides a template for how suppliers and Government Departments can work together to meet the challenges set out in the Review. We expect this to be the first in a line of similar arrangements paving the way for more productive and harmonious relationships between the government and supplier communities.”

Lieutenant General Anthony Palmer, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Personnel) said:

Today we are taking a major step towards modernising the way in which we deliver pay and personnel services to the Armed Forces. We look forward to continuing the successful working relationship which has been developed with EDS over the last few years..”

A year before, the Inland Revenue had removed EDS and replaced them with another provider but the MoD thought its revised ‘partnering’ arrangements would mean they would be successful where the Inland Revenue were not. Up to this point EDS had managed to win nearly 60% of outsourcing contracts by value but this was a significant blow.

JPA was revolutionary because it shifted the traditional role of ‘pay clerks’ onto the individual serviceman or woman, in the brave new world each unit would be provided with JPA terminals and individuals would manage their own pay, expenses, leave and other HR type issues. It was also to provide statistical reports and returns to the MoD.

Towards the end of 2007 it was being rolled out to Army personnel having already been completed for the RAF and RN starting in 2006.

Any IT project, especially one that is designed to force such a radical change, is going to experience teething problems but almost from the start JPA was having more than its fair share of problems.

Despite this it was incredibly nominated for a Public Sector IT Award in the prestigious Computing Magazine Awards for Excellence 2007

As soon as service personnel were alerted to this rather bizarre (from their perspective) nomination they started commenting on the Computing Magazine web site. The journalists of course started to sniff an interesting story, government incompetence in IT is almost as common a story as ‘leaf falls from tree’ but this one had an additional angle; soldiers, sailors and airmen were serving in Iraq, equipment shortage stories were commonplace and the usual revolving doors between the MoD and industry were revolving as fast as ever.

Here are a few choice comments from the 37 pages of comments on the nomination site;

The system has put us back about 15 years. It takes ages to do a simple posting, and it is virtually impossible to trawl for personnel with particular experience or qualifications. It is not fit for purpose and has just made life 20 times harder.

Please dear God let my eyes be deceiving me! I cannot believe that JPA has received nominations for these awards

If 3 degree level educated officers can’t work the system out what chance have the poor infantry men have?

I wholeheartedly concur with every single negative comment thus far…..Indeed to even see this system nominated for an award is an insult of biblical proportions. The system is complicated beyond reason, ineffective in most areas and fraught with design faults.

You cannot possibly give an award to this appalling system

Ill considered and launched well before it was ready, it was a disaster from the start.

The innovative training package was no different from other on line training except that it failed to address 98% of the system capabilities and the interface was geared for a 5 year old child.

We are continually informed that this dreadful system is wonderful……It is an unmitigated disaster. It is useless as a management tool. It has failed me and many of my soldiers. It is not acceptable. What is really sad, is that some service personnel and MOD civilians will receive Honours for inflicting this useless system on us.

What an absolute joke, JPA is by far and away the worst HR Admin tool ever. Pay is constantly wrong and individual leave balances are rarely correct.

These comments lit the blue touch paper but of course in the land of the fairies, all was well.

The Annual Report and Accounts 2006/2007 published by the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency reported;

The success of the project, notwithstanding the early teething problems, is due to the tremendous dedication and hard work of both MoD and EDS personnel and the way in which they have applied the Partnering Principles of teamwork, innovation and continuous improvement.

Not surprisingly, JPA did not win!

Our old favourite ‘lessons have been learned’ made its regular appearance.

EDS (recently taken over by Hewlett Packard) in this 1st October 2007 article were singing the praises of, well, itself.

There are also some remarkable examples if you look outside the United States. For example, EDS recently implemented the Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system for the UK Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency (now known as the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency).

JPA is an innovative, envelope-pushing application modernization program that makes comprehensive use of Oracle Suite functionality. The program has enabled a world-class business transformation in the way that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) provides pay, pension, and personnel administration services to the UK Armed Forces. JPA has allowed the ministry to harmonize and rationalize pay and allowances across all three services; supports remote secure system access whether on land, at sea, or on operational duties worldwide; and provides self-service access for more than 300,000 users to view pay slips, change personal details, and submit on-line expenses and leave requests. JPA also supports a one-stop Enquiry Centre that handles 20,000 calls a week.

As you’d expect, the benefits for the MOD have been significant. Less administration is required to deliver an improved service; information needs to be entered only once, reducing errors and saving time; management reporting has been improved; and the time to introduce new policy or legislative changes has been reduced.

The business benefits from JPA to the MOD started to flow almost immediately. In its first full year of operation, the program is expected to deliver overall savings of £100 million, which is being redirected to operations.

Computing magazine published a number of rather different stories in the same month;

http://www.computing.co.uk/computing/analysis/2201914/jpa-teething-trouble-causes
http://www.computing.co.uk/computing/news/2201804/armed-forces-face-pay-crisis-3591313
http://www.computing.co.uk/computing/analysis/2201980/never-learn-past-failures-3591600

Things got worse before they improved but they did improve and the public face of JPA went away as issues were gradually resolved, despite a very public legal case brought by an RAF Officer.

Kicking off the very public airing of dirty linen this year was a report from the Commons Defence Select Committee on the MoD’s Annual Report and Accounts 2008-2009. Published on the 18th of March it commented on the fact that the Comptroller and Auditor General (head of the National Audit Office) qualified the MoD’s Resource Account because of issues with JPA.

Listing a number of failing and weaknesses it laid the blame firmly at the door of JPA. In a very forthright series of comments it went on to say;

It is difficult to exaggerate the magnitude of the failure of the Joint Personnel Administration programme. At a time when the Department is seeking, in many cases successfully, to deal with areas of dissatisfaction in service personnel life, this failure, which affects pay, entitlements and service records, is unacceptable

In developing JPA, the MoD placed insufficient emphasis on financial reporting requirements or the requirements for management information. A system was put in place, presumably with the approval of the Department’s Finance Officer, that provided insufficient evidence of payments and which could have such adverse impacts upon Departmental Accounts. We consider this to be a basic and fundamental error which is unacceptable on a project of this scale and importance.

It remains unclear whether the ability of the MoD to recover such a small proportion of the monies it paid out to EDS for JPA reflects the nature of the contract, a just assessment of the proportion of responsibility for JPA’s weaknesses or both. The decision to implement the JPA programme through an existing contract, which was clearly insufficient to deal with problems that might arise, was short sighted. The lack of clarity in the design in the system at the outset has led significant costs being incurred by the Department which ought to have been entirely avoidable.

Bringing the story up to date, it has been reported that the MoD is considering writing off a large proportion of the £268million worth of errors identified by the National Audit Office. It is anticipated that about half of this figure will be written off. In all fairness to the MoD, the figures are estimates and may well be less.

Still, even that is over £130million

Or,

Roughly the same amount as the recently announced contract for an additional 1,300 Javelin missiles.

Are things getting better, well they could hardly be getting any worse but no doubt progress is being made, let’s all retire for tea, medals, non executive directorships and MBE’s.

Maybe not.

DII(F) the network infrastructure over which JPA runs is being loaded with more applications and to quote the NAO “without the necessary associated development of IT capacity”

The application is due to be moved onto Oracle Fusion as support for the existing system is due to end sometime after 2012, once Oracle has completed its product switch to Fusion. A decision to upgrade to Fusion will need to be taken by mid-2010, but no information is available on how a switch to Fusion would be funded and managed, said the NAO.

Watch this space.

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Euan Stewart
November 17, 2009 1:27 am

What is there to say really the MoD failed again but someone has to try these radical approaches its unfortunate it had to be the UK MoD and shame it failed so badly. Hopefully the system is either binned or all the problems are smoothed out and the MoD gets something that works and something the personnel are happy with.

Jed
Jed
November 17, 2009 1:51 am

Well as someone who had his pay cocked up once or twice by ‘Writers’ in the jolly old RN, and is now an IT professional, one has to ask why the civil service seems unable to apply the lessons of large corporations and how they go about such projects. It also beggars belief that the UK Govt. invented the PRINCE 2 project management methodology, and the “Managing Successful Programmes” methodology which sits on top of it (both well regarded around the world) and then does not enforce their effective use !!

DominicJ
November 17, 2009 1:59 pm

“one has to ask why the civil service seems unable to apply the lessons of large corporations and how they go about such projects.”

I work for a fluffy, friendly company.
Had something like this happened, half the finance and IT departments would have been told they were on garden duty for a month and not to return after that.