Still no end in sight to SFA software nightmare

There remains no end in sight to the problems faced by providers trying to use new funding software to calculate how much government cash they are due.

Skills Funding Agency (SFA) deputy director for programme delivery and performance Rich Williams and deputy director for funding systems Una Bennett (pictured) spoke in a webinar hosted exclusively by FE Week publisher Lsect, presented by FE funding consultant Nick Linford. They spoke about ongoing issues with the new Funding Information System (Fis) software.

I cannot say we have fixes for every one of the [25] known issues for FIS but we are working very hard on that.”

It should have been available in August last year, but was not released until November — and providers say it is still giving unreliable funding data reports.

Mr Williams admitted Fis was still creating inaccurate data and could not say when the issues would be resolved.

He said: “I cannot say we have fixes for every one of the [25] known issues for FIS but we are working very hard on that.”
A spreadsheet on the Data Service’s website has listed more than 70 problems with Fis.

A report issued this week by the SFA also conceded Fis was producing inaccurate data in five out of 12 key reporting areas.
The government’s Learning Aim Reference System (Lars) online search engine should also have been available by last August.

It is supposed to help providers’ management information system (MIS) officers check whether qualifications are eligible for funding, and how much per learner providers should receive.

However, it is still not available and providers are having to use Lars Lite instead — a temporary downloadable database from the SFA that providers claim is also producing unreliable data.

When asked when Lars will be released, Mr Williams said: “Any date I give I would be making up, so I’m not going to give you a date.”
When asked if development of Lars had been paused while the other funding software issues were being resolved, he added: “The focus has been elsewhere, absolutely.”

Many in the sector have claimed the problems with Fis and Lars Lite corrupted key information in the Statistical First Release published on January 30.

A note in the report itself stated: “There is evidence of increased data lag for the first three months of 2013/14 compared to the same period of the previous year.”