The government has been heavily criticised by MPs over yet another IT system disaster - this time for the Child Support Agency, with usual suspect EDS in charge.

The government rejected several key recommendations in a Select Committee report on the IT system, out last week, including a demand for EDS to stop hiding behind a defence of "commercial confidentiality" and provide more details of how the project is proceeding; and for a contingency plan to be drawn up to scrap the entire project if it isn't operational by 1 December this year.

"Commercial confidentiality is being used to prevent Parliament from gaining access to key information about IT projects," the MPs wrote in their latest assessment of the situation.

The Child Support Agency system, which involves a Java-based application developed by EDS, is expected to cost the government £456 million over 10 years and has been plagued by problems. It was launched two years behind schedule and £256 million over budget and was blamed last year for delaying payments to tens of thousands of single parents.

In July, the Select Committee on Work and Pensions issued a highly critical report that called the system an "appalling waste of public money", and recommended it be dumped altogether unless it hit a 1 December deadline.

However, the Department of Work and Pensions has rejected these recommendations. It also rejected a recommendation to make the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) "gateway reviews" public.

This hasn't pleased committee chairman Sir Archy Kirkwood MP: "Instead of addressing the committee's concern, the department defends its secretive approach on grounds of commercial confidentiality and says that it will make information available in the context of the Freedom of Information Act. This isn't good enough," he fumed. "We will not let the matter rest here."

The MPs pointed out that since 2001, the Department of Work and Pensions has spent around £4.25 billion on various IT projects, including the Child Support Agency system, and that the UK's public sector IT projects in 2003/4 are expected to cost more than £12.4 billion.

With such massive amounts of taxpayer money at stake, it is vital that the government "keep open its options for an independent review of projects," the MPs said in a Committee statement. "Parliament and the public require more detailed information about IT projects, including the business case."

EDS, which holds over a third of all government IT contracts in the UK and Australia, has previously been dumped by the NHS and Inland Revenue after ballsing up new systems. It still has a way to go though to outdo Siemens Business Systems, which has been at the centre of two scandalous IT collapses for the Immigration service and the Passport Office.