Home Office to waste £1bn on immigration system IT

Immigration system IT failures will cost tax payers £1bn and are causing a continued backlog of cases

Immigration system IT failures will cost tax payers £1bn, are causing a continued backlog of cases and mean thousands of immigrants may still be in the UK illegally after their applications have been rejected, according to a government report.

The Home Office project to speed up immigration processing has seen two major IT initiatives cancelled at huge cost to taxpayers, said a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report. 

“The failure of major IT projects designed to streamline processes not only leaves the department reliant on archaic systems, but may also end up costing the taxpayer up to £1bn,” said chair of the PAC Margaret Hodge MP.

"The cancellation of the Immigration Case Work programme and the e-Borders IT programme could mean a gobsmackingly awful figure being wasted,” she added.

The report said the Home Office scrapped the UK Border Agency in March 2013 partly because its performance in dealing with backlog cases was not good enough. But it added the Home Office has failed to sort out asylum backlogs. 

According to the report, there are 29,000 applications dating back to at least 2007 remaining unresolved. It said 11,000 of these have not even received an initial decision on claims. It added targets set for dealing with new claims are also being missed.

The PAC further claimed the Home Office is not keeping track of people that had their application to stay in the UK rejected. At the end of 2013-14 there were more than 175,000 people whose application to stay in the UK had been turned down. 

“It is deeply worrying the Home Office is not tracking those people. Some may have left the UK voluntarily, but without exit checks it is almost impossible to know.

"The department has had direct control of the immigration directorates for 18 months, yet it has still not established better processes for dealing with different types of cases," said the report.

The PAC also criticised service provider Capita in the report. When the Home Office asked Capita to check more than 250,000 case records in 2012 and 2013, it was unable to contact over 50,000 people listed. 

“The department admitted they did not know where these people were,” the report said.

The PAC said the Home Office needs to get a better understanding of the IT it needs. 

"As a matter of priority, the department should identify the future IT capabilities it requires, so it can develop a comprehensive, system-wide IT strategy that will deliver the required capabilities," the report concluded.

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