Border Agency’s IT system runs £28m over budget and a year behind schedule

The Border Agency’s £385m Immigration Case Work IT project is £28m over budget and one year behind schedule, says the National Audit Office

The Border Agency’s £385m Immigration Case Work IT (ICW) project is running £28m over budget and one year behind schedule, the National Audit Office has said.

The agency is undertaking transformation of immigration and asylum casework by 2015, through streamlining processes and implementing the ICW system. Its major activity is case-working, which costs more than £1bn a year, said the report.

But a loss of focus, poor governance and a tendency towards optimism bias in planning, delivery and reporting have contributed to the current problems, said the National Audit Office (NAO).

“At the outset there was a lack of strategic direction: the programme’s board did not challenge the IT contractors about their use of resources. Our regional visits revealed poor communication of progress to front-line staff, who were confused about the timing of releases, resulting in a lack of confidence in ICW,” said the NAO.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: "The real leadership test will be whether the agency can transform casework processing without relying solely on new IT, and whether the Border Force can improve its workforce practices and raise productivity."

ICW aims to create a single end-to-end case-working process, leading to cost savings through streamlining, improving the quality and accuracy of decisions and providing better customer service through online self-service applications enabling faster decisions.

The programme aims to roll out 14 separate IT releases over five years from 2009, to save £139m a year by 2014-15 in direct costs and indirect savings in estates and overheads.

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