Home Office to waste up to £1 billion on border systems, say MPs

The Home Office is set to waste up to £1 billion on immigration and border systems, according to a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report out today.

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The Home Office is set to waste up to £1 billion on immigration and border systems, according to a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report out today.

The two IT projects – the e-Borders system and Immigration Case Work system – have been scrapped having “delivered significantly less than expected”, the report said.  

The Home Office still cannot track people through the immigration system or remove those without a legal right to stay in the UK as a result of IT limitations, according to the committee.

PAC chair Margaret Hodge said that “the failure of major IT projects designed to streamline process” has left the department “reliant on archaic systems” as well as leading to a “gobsmackingly awful figure being wasted”.

The e-Borders IT contract was cancelled in 2010 at a cost of £259 million. That figure soared to £483 million in total after supplier Raytheon successfully extracted a settlement of £224 million from the department in August, claiming officials had failed to make targets and objectives clear.

The overall e-Borders scheme, to collect and store information on passengers and crew entering and leaving the UK, was later cancelled in May 2014. However the Home Office insisted it is still delivering the project’s intended aim to record ‘advanced passenger information’.

The Home Office wasted a further £347 million on an Immigration Case Work (ICW) system, intended to support applications for visas and immigration, according to a National Audit Office (NAO) report in July.

It was cancelled in August 2013 having “achieved much less than planned”, the NAO said.

Three new Home Office directorates replaced the former UK Border Agency in March 2012: Immigration Enforcement, UK Visas & Immigration, and Border Force.

Part of the rationale for the move was inadequate IT systems, according to Home Secretary Theresa May.

However the committee said that in the 18 months that the Home Office has had direct control of the immigration directorates “it has still not established better processes”.

The PAC acknowledged that the department now focuses on replacing large scale IT projects with smaller, more flexible contracts.

However it said that the department should now urgently focus on future IT capabilities and develop a comprehensive system-wide IT strategy to deliver the capabilities identified in the review.

Poor quality data

The report also found that a lack of good quality data is preventing the department from managing its immigration case workload and hindering accountability.

It said that a sample check of data on the casework information database found that for 84 percent of cases where people were removed from the UK, the department did not hold the minimum necessary information such as their address or postcode, before their removal.

The failure of the e-Borders and ICW systems means the department cannot automatically compile data on individual cases. As a result, the department has to do extra work to cleanse data and reconcile conflicting datasets to produce accurate management information, the report said.

It added that Capita, which was contracted to check immigration records in 2012, was unable to contact over 50,000 of 250,000 people listed. The Home Office admitted it did not know where these 50,000 people were.

The PAC said “the department should immediately take steps to improve the quality of the data it collects and holds through cleansing and regular sample checks.”

It also called for the Home Office to ensure it has the right number of staff with right skills and incentives to clear backlogs of asylum claims.

Response

Immigration and security minister James Brokenshire said: “The immigration system we inherited was totally dysfunctional with systematic abuse of family, work and student visas and an agency overseeing it all that was completely incapable of the task.

“UKBA was a failing organisation that could not deliver an efficient immigration system for Britain. This is why we split it up.”

He added: “Turning around years of mismanagement has taken time, but it is now well underway. We have reformed visa routes to make them more resistant to fraud; cancelled failing contracts; and taken significant steps to deal with the backlogs we inherited."

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