Government IT projects ‘reward civil servants for failures’

The Dutch government wastes millions of euros on failed IT projects every year because civil servants benefit more when projects flop, entrepreneur René Veldwijk says in Monday’s Telegraaf.

Veldwijk will give evidence to a parliamentary committee looking into government IT policy later on Monday.

Veldwijk has worked on government projects for years and says big firms are not subject to any sort of sanction if they spend more than planned and are not investigated properly.

Gigantic projects

‘Civil servants are rewarded for their failings,’ he told the Telegraaf. ‘They can carry on setting up gigantic projects so that more jobs and money come to their department.’


The current system is riddled with problems, Veldwijk says. For example, government departments bring in so many outsiders that they effectively control what happens. ‘They are not thinking about the public interest but about profits,’ he told the Telegraaf.

The commission is looking into six government IT projects which ran into serious trouble, and held its first interviews at the end of April. The NRC sums them up as follows:

  • mGBA: modernising the local government registration system (births, marriages, deaths and address).
  • Ov-chipkaart: smart card for public transport which was expensive and did not have enough loading stations.
  • C2000: a new communication system for the emergency services which cost twice the budget and still has operating problems.
  • EPD: a centralised system for storing patients’ medical records which floundered in the upper house of parliament because of concerns about privacy.
  • jobs website run by the UWV benefit centres which has been beset by computer failure
  • A73 tunnels: a security system for tunnels on the A73 highway which did not work, leading to months of tunnel closures.

In total, the Dutch government has lost between €4bn and €5bn a year on failing IT projects, information science professor Hans Mulder told the committee in April.

Just 7% of the projects with a budget starting at €7.5m can be said to be successful, Mulder told MPs. In total, 70% of projects fail.

Of those which flop, 36% fail so seriously the new system is never used and around half are of doubtful value because they turn out to be too expensive, take too long or produce unexpected results, Mulder said.

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