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Six out of eight key government IT systems for managing border control after Brexit are at risk of not being finished by the 29 March deadline, a National Audit Office (NAO) report has advised.
With just weeks to go until the UK leaves the European Union (EU), a number of IT systems required to facilitate the movement of livestock and food, customs and taxation are rated as red-amber in terms of readiness – a warning that they are unlikely to be delivered on time.
The NAO’s UK border: preparedness for EU exit update, which follows an earlier report, warned: “There has been progress in key areas since we last reported in October 2018. However, six of the eight critical systems remain at risk of not being delivered on time and to acceptable quality relating to delivery of IT changes.”
One of these is the Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System (IPAFFS), which is being developed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Health Affairs (Defra) to monitor and control the import of animals, animal-related products, high-risk food and feed.
The report highlighted several integration issues, where some of the affected IT systems and processes relied on other systems being operational.
For instance, the NAO found that the readiness of the Automatic Licence Verification System (ALVS), which links HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Defra systems, had deteriorated. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, “ALVS will be critical to ensure an operational link” between the Defra and HMRC systems, the report stated.
The NAO gave a red “high risk” rating to HMRC’s New Computerised Transit System (NCTS), which will record and manage goods coming into the UK.
“HMRC’s transit project is working to ensure the existing NCTS can handle the expected increase in volume in the event of no deal; however, there remains a risk that the system will not be ready in time. There are significant challenges remaining to put in place the resourcing and infrastructure needed to support the transit process to be used by border users,” it stated.
As Computer Weekly has previously reported, HMRC’s new Customs Declaration Service (CDS) system, which will handle and risk-assess customs declarations and account for payment of duties, is not yet ready.
“Technical issues have meant that customs software developers and communications service providers have been unable to undertake all the required testing of their products. In addition, HMRC has told us that software developers are concentrating more of their efforts on testing and implementing changes required for ‘day one of no deal’,” the NAO stated.
While it had previously planned to run the existing Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (Chief) system alongside CDS in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the NAO reported that HMRC now planned to continue using Chief as the primary system for customs declarations.
However, HMRC has until March 2020 to migrate to the new system when its contract with Fujitsu for Chief expires.
The other system given a red rating was the one for handling customs at the Irish border. Given the political turmoil surrounding Ireland and Northern Ireland and the so-called backstop to avoid a hard border, the NAO reported that the project to develop an approach for VAT, customs and excise duties for goods crossing the border that is consistent with the Belfast Agreement, was highly unlikely to be ready by 29 March.
One of the systems the NAO found had improved was the Tariff Application Platform (TAP), which is being developed by the Department for International Trade to transmit tariff data to HMRC for the calculation of duties due at the border.