The National Audit Office (NAO) has issued a value-for-money report into the work of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) systems.

The findings issued on the effectiveness of Jobcentre Plus today were overall encouraging about the effectiveness of the scheme in offering advice to help unemployed people get back into work, but singled out ongoing problems with IT administrative and appointment systems for special criticism.

The report said that in 2005/06, 1.8 million appointments were missed when customers failed to turn up. This cost at least £16 million in wasted time and creates additional administrative duties and paperwork.

It specifically criticised the substantial paperwork burden as time consuming, compounded by the limitations of some of the IT systems, which cannot print out forms with the necessary details. It also said interviews are often interrupted by ad hoc queries and calls, which could be more efficiently handled by support staff.

Staff are “left trying to manage countless administrative and ad hoc tasks at the same time as having to battle with an old and incoherent IT system,” said the NAO in a statement.

It also said Jobcentre Plus needs better data management as it currently operates with incomplete information on various aspects of its work, from how many personal advisers it employs to the exact cost of paperwork or late appointments.

Problems these DWP systems were also reported to be hampering operations, according to a Public Accounts Committee report published earlier this month.

It blamed poor integration for problems at 62 Jobcentre Plus call centres run by the Pension Service and the Disability and Carers Service, causing customers to repeat information and staff to duplicate effort.

‘In some cases, data held on one system has to be printed out and input again into another,’ said the report.

Committee chairman Edward Leigh at the time commented: ‘The underlying IT system is complex and unreliable.’