The UK government and ICL have flatly contradicted each over the Pathway computer fiasco, which has now been calculated to have wasted £460 million of taxpayers' money.
Government ministers told MPs on a parliamentary committee last week that Pathway failed its live trials in 1998. However ICL, which developed the system to automate benefits payments at post offices, denies any live trial was ever completed. It blames the disaster on the failure of a related government system.
Alistair Darling, secretary of state for social security, Stephen Byers, secretary of state for trade and industry, and Alan Milburn, chief secretary to the Treasury, all said a swipe card intended as an integral part of Pathway never materialised.
The ministers say that the cancelled portion of the Pathway contract - the electronic payment of benefits with cards - proved impossible to develop.
Following the hearing, an ICL spokeswoman said Pathway flopped because of the Department of Social Security's CAPS system did not provide essential benefits data to Pathway.
Darling told MPs that "CAPS is working," but appeared to refer to a separate, successful element of CAPS. He was not pressed on how much data was fed through to ICL.
"The DSS wanted to live trial each benefit in turn, which would have taken up to five years - or right to the end of the contract," added ICL, which rejected this plan.
Ministers told Parliament that the government has written off £140 million of expenditure and foregone £320 million of savings because of the last May's cancellation of the major part of Pathway.
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