Thursday, May 03, 2007

Register office meltdown in England and Wales

Register office meltdown-Comment-Join the Debate-Letters to the Editor-TimesOnline: "Sir, The registration of births and deaths in England and Wales was changed on March 26, with the introduction of registration online and the doing away with the old handwritten registers."
Chaos as register offices are told to abandon £6m computer system-News-Politics-TimesOnline

Hundreds of register offices across the country have been ordered to abandon a new online system for recording births, deaths and marriages in the latest IT fiasco to hit the government.

The Times has learnt that the huge £6 million IT project has met with “complete system failure” and online registration has been suspended in half the 3,000 offices.

Registrars have been told that a long-term solution will take “many months” and in the meantime those affected should revert to the old computer system, even though that means none of the hundreds of births, deaths and marriages that occur each day will be centrally recorded.

Registrars have complained bitterly about the problems caused by the new system, which at times has forced them them to ask grieving family members to give details of their loved ones twice because the data has been lost.

In many areas, multiple death certificates cannot be issued because of the problems. Multiple certificates are vital for transferring assets and pensions as companies do not accept photocopies as proof of death.

The hardware and software, developed by Siemens and US group ManTech respectively, was tested extensively before being introduced at register offices late last year.

However, when the last tranches of offices was added in March, the new system almost ground to a halt. Officers said that its performance was so slow that it was unusable.

When IT staff came to try and sort it out, they found it could not reliably save data.

Details of the fiasco are contained in a letter to today’s Times. The author, a registrar in the home counties, said that since it was known in advance exactly how many staff would be using the system every day, volume testing had clearly been inadequate.

Concerns raised by staff about the reliability of the new system were dismissed, the registrar said


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