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Lack of RTI back-up plan concerns PAC 2 January 2014

Benefit claimants could miss out on welfare payments due to the lack of a back-up plan for real-time reporting, MPs are warning.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is concerned that, while the Real Time Information (RTI) system has made “good progress” so far, there are inadequate arrangements in the event of its failure.

PAC chair Margaret Hodge said: “The lack of full disaster recovery arrangements in the RTI system means there is a risk that any system failure will delay or introduce errors in payments to Universal Credit claimants.

“The successful implementation of Universal Credit depends on HMRC working effectively with the DWP, both because Universal Credit uses information transferred to it from RTI to calculate payments to claimants and because it will eventually replace tax credits.

“However, delays in receiving information from RTI, or any system failures, are likely to affect payments to individual claimants, and RTI currently lacks full disaster recovery arrangements.”

The committee has recommended the Revenue makes efforts to improve its ability to recover from a disaster, as well as ensuring small businesses are assisted in transitioning to reporting in real-time.

Responding to the warnings expressed by PAC, an HMRC spokesman said: “We believe we have struck the right balance in building a system that delivers high levels of resilience at an affordable cost to the public purse.

“The RTI systems are designed so that the failure of a single component (for example, a computer server) will not cause a loss of the entire service.

“In the unlikely instance of a more serious failure in the RTI core service, we can safely queue submissions until the service restarts.”

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