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Rates Collection Agency

Volume 456: debated on Monday 29 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether external consultants were used to develop the new IT system of the Rates Collection Agency. (111067)

Following an Official Journal of the European Union procurement a private sector supplier was awarded a contract in January 2005 to provide the Rate Collection Agency with a managed Information Communications Technology service. This included the development of an integrated revenue collection and housing benefit system.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate he has made of the cost of dealing with the problems created by the new IT system of the Rates Collection Agency. (111073)

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much the new IT system in the Rates Collection Agency cost. (111074)

The overall value of the managed service contract which runs for 10 years, subject to a review after eight, is approximately £6 million. The cost of developing the new IT system is subsumed within the overall managed service cost.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects the new IT system of the Rates Collection Agency (a) to be fully operational and (b) to incorporate owner-occupier housing benefit information. (111075)

The system is being implemented in four phases and should be fully operational by July 2007. The transfer of owner-occupier housing benefit information is part of Phase 3 (a new housing benefit system) which is scheduled to be implemented by March 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether a problem has occurred in the migration of data between two IT systems within the Rates Collection Agency. (111076)

Migration of data between the old and new rate collection systems has caused some problems but the majority of these were due to the poor quality of data in the old system. While efforts were made to correct erroneous data prior to data migration, it was not possible to identify and correct all the issues. Most of these issues have now been resolved.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what has caused the problem with the new IT system in the Rates Collection Agency that has resulted in it not being able to process owner-occupier housing benefit applications. (111077)

The new IT system is being introduced on a phased basis. Phase 1, the collection and billing system, went live in October 2006. Phase 3, the replacement of the existing owner-occupied housing benefit system, is due for completion during March 2007. An interface was required to update the new collection and billing system with information from the existing housing benefit system. The complexity of replicating and modifying the interface has been challenging. The agency is working with its suppliers to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when the new computer system was introduced by the Rates Collection Agency. (111078)

The new computer system is being introduced in a phased manner. The first phase went live in October 2006 and the final phase is due to be completed in July 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether manual payments are being paid for owner-occupier housing benefit applications within the Rates Collection Agency. (111079)

Manual payments have been made by the agency in cases where there is evidence of financial hardship.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans there are for changes in the number of staff dealing with owner-occupier housing benefit applications within the Rates Collection Agency. (111080)

The agency has planned for additional staff to deal with an anticipated increase in the number of applications for owner-occupier housing benefit and the implementation of the domestic rate relief scheme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the average turnaround time is to process owner-occupier housing benefit applications to the Rates Collection Agency. (111094)

Average turnaround times apply to those cases where all the information necessary to assess entitlement has been received from the applicant. The average turnaround time achieved to 15 September 2006 was 13 days. Work is currently ongoing to ensure turnaround time improves.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many owner-occupiers’ housing benefit claims were received by the Rates Collection Agency in Northern Ireland in (a) 2004, (b) 2005 and (c) 2006; and how many have been received in 2007. (111095)

The information is as follows:

Number

2004-05

16,704

2005-06

19,979

2006-07

115,972

1 Up to and including 21 January 2007