2014 26 JUL
The Home Office wasted nearly £350 million on a computer system for dealing with immigration and asylum applications that was abandoned, forcing staff to revert to using an old system that regularly freezes.
The “Immigration Case Work” system was commissioned in 2010 and was supposed to be a “flagship IT programme”, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) said.
However, it suffered "delays and problems" that led to it being shut down last August. Ministers have now commissioned another new computer system that is due to cost a further £209 million by 2016-17.
The Home Office is also expected to incur extra costs to maintain the older system - which is due to expire in early 2016 - until the new technology is ready to launch, the Nation Audit Office concluded.
This older computer system regularly "freezes", becomes unstable, and is incapable of linking with other Government systems.
The report said the new system commissioned in 2010 was designed to streamline the way cases were handled to “improve quality and accuracy of casework decisions”.
Despite costing £347 million it “delivered significantly less” than expected.
The report also disclosed that backlogs in the immigration system are still too high more than a year after Theresa May, the Home Secretary, ordered a wholesale reorganisation.
The NAO said Mrs May’s decision to split the former UK Border Agency because of its “closed, secretive and defensive culture” had failed to result in widespread improvements.
At the end of March there were still 301,000 open cases in one of the replacement agencies - UK Visas and Immigration - which included significant backlogs.
For example, the long-standing backlog of foreigners who may still be living in Britain despite being refused permission to live here stood at 175,000, down 8,000 in a year, while the asylum backlog was at 25,876, the report said.
Margaret Hodge MP, chairwoman of the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee, said: “The department has still not solved some of the big problems of the former UK Border Agency. It’s unacceptable that over 25,000 asylum claims are still waiting to be dealt with and the Department does not know if over 175,000 people who have no right to be in the UK have left or not.”
Mrs Hodge said of the new IT contract: “Given its poor track record, I have little confidence that the further £209 million it is spending on another IT system will be money well spent.”
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “The Home Office has started making significant changes since the agency was broken up and has made progress in some areas. We would have expected greater progress by now though in tackling the problems we identified in 2012 in areas such as specific backlogs and IT.
“Among our recommendations is that the department prioritize outstanding backlogs and act to prevent the cases that it classifies as unworkable building up into backlogs.”