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Highways Agency blames IT system for more late payments


PROBLEMS WITH a new electronic accounting system made the Highways Agency miss its target of paying invoices promptly for the second year running, according to its annual report published last week.

One in eight invoices sent to the Agency was paid late last year, says its 2003/4 report.

The Agency had set a target of paying 98% of all invoices within terms, but the actual performance for the year was 87.2%.

In 2002/03 one in five invoices were paid late because of 'teething problems' with the new accounting system. These problems carried over into 2003/04.

'The under-performance follows difficulties we had with embedding our new financial management system, ' said an Agency statement.

'Steady improvement was made throughout 2003/4 and we achieved 94.5% in the second half of the year. We are moving towards the target of 98% in 2004/5.'

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association said that the late payment was 'not helpful' but agreed the Agency was making progress.

The annual report also shows that the Agency fell four milestones short of its target for advancing 46 major schemes in its programme of improvements.

The A120 Stansted-Braintree improvement opened late due to problems with re-routing utilities and bad weather conditions.

Publication of draft orders on the A11 Fiveways-Thetford widening and Attleborough bypass was held back for cost cutting. The A483 Pant to Llanymynech improvement was delayed to 'allow schemes with greater congestion and safety priorities to be carried out' first.

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