Committee blames finance, tax officials in IT scandal

The Swiss government has dealt with several IT contract scandals in recent years Keystone

The finance ministry should have been aware of and acted sooner to stop a ballooning, failing IT project at the federal tax office that cost more than CHF100 million ($103 million), a parliamentary commission has concluded.

This content was published on November 21, 2014 - 16:35 and agencies

The project known as Insieme – Italian for “together” – sought to bring IT solutions for several federal departments under one roof. However, in doing so, the CHF116 million project went off the rails when the powers and responsibilities of the agencies involved were never made clear and the people issuing contracts for the work did not follow prescribed rules, the parliamentary commission found.

Contracts were issued to outside workers and companies without due diligence, and although stakeholders in the project received progress reports, they never knew why. Moreover, the contents of the reports were never questioned.

Ultimately, the commission concluded, the project failed because of deficiencies in its management and monitoring, especially on the part of the Federal Tax Office. By extension, the commission blamed ex-Finance Minister Kaspar Villiger, as well as his successors Hans-Rudolf Merz and Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, for not having oversight over the project and shutting it down sooner.

Insieme was launched in the year 2000 and Widmer-Schlumpf finally pulled the plug on the failed project in 2012. The parliamentary committee especially laid blame on Merz, who was finance minister between 2004 and 2010, for not properly overseeing the project from his post in the finance ministry.

The Swiss government has been plagued by a series of IT contract scandals in recent years, including one involving bribery on the part of an employee at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

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