The rollout of a new shared financial management system for the public service is expected to cost €68m more than was originally budgeted and be delivered nearly four years behind schedule. 

That's according to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) examining the implementation of the Financial Management Shared Services (FMSS) project, which found that so far a working version of the system has not yet been delivered, even though it was due for completion in June. 

The plan aimed to replace 31 different financial management and reporting systems in use across 48 Government departments, offices and agencies with a single financial IT system supported by a new finance shared services centre, the report says. 

The FMSS project envisaged the design and building of a whole new system to be deployed across the civil service.  

"This has turned out to be significantly more challenging than originally envisaged," the C&AG report concludes. 

"As a result, the project is very significantly behind the original schedule, and costs are likely to be very significantly in excess of the amount projected when the project first received Government approval in January 2016." 

Originally it was projected that the design and build of the FMSS system would cost €47.4m ex VAT and it was due to be completed by June of this year. 

By the end of last year, the National Shared Services Office (NSSO) had spent €38.4 million ex VAT on the project and it is expected that an additional €15 million will be spent this year. 

However, a Government decision earlier this month approved the continued deployment of the system over an extended timeline to 2025 with additional funding which brings the total approved budget for the project to €115m inclusive of VAT, the report says 

The report details how a substantial element of the work was contracted out to a system implementation partner, and a fixed price contract worth €30.4m agreed in 2016. 

But since then disputes have arisen between the NSSO and the partner in relation to the project. 

As a result, work was interrupted in July 2018 when the planned deployment of the FMSS was paused.  

A review has since been completed with a revised design specification prepared and an agreed chart of accounts signed off this year.  

"The NSSO is currently negotiating with the system implementation partner with a view to agreeing a revised plan for remobilisation and deployment of the system to the first wave of public sector bodies," the report finds. 

Spending totaling €10.3m ex VAT, representing just over a quarter of total expenditure up to the end of 2019, had not been envisaged in the business case cost estimate, the NSSO found, according to the C&AG. 

"Much of that expenditure related to reviewing and amending the system design and to multiple reviews of various aspects of the project and was potentially avoidable," the report states.