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PRIVATE DOUBTS CAST OVER GOVERNMENT'S PFI SCHEMES

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The Guardian's On Line supplement (p4) reports on private finance initiatives, saying the pitfalls of asking inform...
The Guardian's On Line supplement (p4) reports on private finance initiatives, saying the pitfalls of asking information technology companies to carry out government work are illustrated by plans to integrate all agency databases for the department of social security.

The Accord project encompasses everything from the benefits agency to the child support agency, with the benefits agency alone holding records for 20 million people. The cost of the exercise is uncertain.

Service providers EDS and IBM were announced last week by the government for the PFI project.

Jo Wright of IBM admits that, with many PFI contracts, saving money has been more important than improving public service with the result that impossibly low bids win.

ICL, which will also gain millions of pounds of business through Accord, says PFI contracts have 'the propensity to become an unholy mess'.

PFI also has critics in the IT business who say that, unlike a road, a good IT system in 1998 is not necessarily right in 2008.

'In the IT world, often the PFI contract outlives the usefulness of what's being purchased', says Ms Wright.

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