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26 October 2005

The DWP has admitted that it was not telling the truth when it claimed it did not own the LiMA incapacity software, used to assess whether claimants are fit for work. The admission has destroyed one of the two grounds on which the DWP is relying to refuse to provide Benefits and Work with a copy of the computer programme. It also raises serious concerns about the department’s ability to deal with multi-million pound contracts.

No policy to mislead
Regular visitors will recall that in Incapacity lies uncovered (08.09.05) Benefits and Work set out the evidence that either the DWP or Secretary of State, Maria Eagle, was lying about ownership of the LiMA software. Benefits and Work subsequently sent the same evidence to the DWP, asking whether they were going to tell Maria Eagle she was either a liar or had been very badly briefed by the department . . . or would they rather Benefits and Work broke the news to her.

We subsequently received an email from a senior staff member at the DWP – whose blushes we shall spare – stating:

‘I apologise for providing incorrect information and for any inconvenience this may have caused. The situation is as Maria Eagle’s response to Paul Holmes:

“The current Medical Services contract provides that Intellectual Property Rights for Evidence Based Medicine and the LiMA software are vested in the Department.”’

What the writer entirely fails to explain, however, is how such an error could possibly have been made in the first place, though they are at pains to claim that:

“. . . there is no policy of deliberately misleading citizens who seek to exercise their rights under the Freedom of Information Act.”

Liars or incompetents
If the DWP did not deliberately mislead Benefits and Work about ownership of the software, the only other explanation is a shocking degree of incompetence on their part. Over a million pounds of taxpayers money was poured into the LiMA project. If the DWP believed that the software was owned by Atos when it actually belongs to the taxpayer, how many other assets of ours will Atos be able to walk away with when their contract finally runs out? And will “public interest” exemptions be used to prevent the taxpayer ever discovering the truth?