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Pensions Dashboard Programme hampered by capability issues, says NAO


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Capacity and capability issues, including a lack of digital skills and ineffective governance, have contributed to delays to government’s Pensions Dashboards Programme (PDP), according to a new National Audit Office (NAO) report.

The programme is aimed at providing a digital architecture for government and private sector pensions dashboards in the UK, which will enable people to view information about their private, workplace and state pensions online, securely and in one place.

The NAO says that Between 2020 and mid-2022, DWP and MaPS made progress in delivering important elements of the pensions dashboards system. However, in December 2022, MaPS informed DWP that the PDP’s delivery timetable was no longer viable and soon after the programme was sent for reset.

The report says a significant mistake was made when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – for which PDP is a flagship programme – delegated its delivery to its arm’s length body the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) without assurance that it had the capacity and capability to do so.

Insufficient resources

A major issue in this was that there had been a shortage of resources, skills and experience, ineffective and complex programme governance, insufficient scrutiny and challenge by the programme board, and a lack of robust contract and performance management.

In addition, DWP’s oversight was led by its policy and corporate sponsorship teams, with limited input from digital and programme management experts.

A subsequent review carried out by DWP in February 2023 found that multiple factors had contributed to the delivery problems, including a lack of skilled digital resources and ineffective programme governance. These factors had also been raised in earlier reviews of the programme carried out by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority.

This delay led to the reset and a revised final connection deadline of 31 October 2026 – one year later than what was outlined in the original timetable.

DWP has yet to specify when pensions dashboards will become available to the estimated 16.3 million users who could stand to benefit. However, due to the delay, this is likely to be later than previously expected.

Rising costs

Meanwhile, the estimated cost of the programme has increased by 23%, from £235 million in 2020 to £289 million in 2023, while the estimated gross benefits have fallen from £437 million in 2022 to £413 million in 2023.

The report says that DWP and MaPS have now made progress in some areas including revising the PDP’s delivery plan, reviewing the digital architecture to ensure it meets requirements, and appointing a new senior responsible owner with the necessary digital technology experience to lead the rest of the programme. A decision is expected soon on whether the programme is ready to leave reset.

The organisations have also started to make changes in response to lessons learned from the experience, revising programme governance arrangements and strengthening how DWP works with its arm’s length bodies.

Future benefits

Head of the NAO Gareth Davies said: “Once completed, the PDP could benefit millions of people by providing a secure, comprehensive and online point of access for information about their pensions.

“However, delivery delays due to shortfalls in digital capacity and capability have pushed back the final deadline for pension providers and schemes to connect to the PDP by a year, with no date currently set for citizens to benefit.

“Though progress has been made during the reset, DWP and MaPS must continue to work closely to ensure the final stages of the PDP are delivered smoothly and the public can begin to have access to this important service.”

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