Cards aimed at saving taxpayers' money to cost twice originally expected amount

Cards aimed at saving taxpayers' money to cost twice originally expected amount

New state services cards aimed at saving the taxpayer money will cost the public purse €60m - more than double what was originally expected.

Letters have been dropping through front doors around the country in recent weeks urging people to sign up for the so-called public services card.

Mainly designed to cut down on benefits fraud, it will replace other cards used to claim social welfare payments and other public services like free travel.

Public spending minister Paschal Donohoe last month urged everyone over the age of 18 to register for the card.

Citing fraud reduction and the discovery of wrongly paid benefits, he trumpeted two million euro savings to the exchequer over the past four years.

However, the State's spending watchdog has revealed an initial expected cost of the scheme of €24m is expected to soar to €60m.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) criticised the Department of Social Protection for not properly costing the project or working out what savings it would make.

"A comprehensive estimate of the total projected project costs including the allocation of existing Department of Social Protection staff was not prepared," the spending watchdog said.

An initial €24m estimate for hiring a company to oversee the scheme jumped €3.3m because of delays and changes to the card.

Furthermore, Department of Social Protection bosses had not figured in additional staff and IT costs, the CAG found.

Some 200 extra employees have been requested for a four-year period as part of the project, at an estimated cost of almost €29m.

But the CAG said this does not take account of other staff costs that will be incurred for the likes of the multi-million euro upgrading of the Department's IT system.

Setting up a helpdesk and other administration has added another three million euro to the bill.

It was originally intended that three million public service cards would be produced by the end of 2013. At the end of June this year, just over two million cards have been issued.

The Department of Social Protection said it now expects the other one million cards will be delivered by the end of next year.


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