Reforming the UK border and immigration system - Public Accounts Committee Contents

2  Business and IT systems

10. The Department took direct control of immigration operations around 18 months ago.[21] The Department's priority had been to stabilise the system and performance, then transform the business to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Both new directorates have started analysing their business models and processes in order to identify efficiencies, increase productivity, and determine the IT needed. However, their plans are far from properly developed and ready.[22]

11. In 2010 the Agency unveiled plans for a new Immigration Case Work (ICW) system, which would replace the older Casework Information Database and 20 other legacy IT systems. ICW was intended to allow all interactions between a caseworker and applicant to be stored in a single place, rather than spread over multiple systems, promoting efficiency and making it much easier to produce information. However the programme delivered significantly less than expected and it was cancelled in August 2013 at a cost of £347 million.[23] Similarly, the e-Borders IT programme, which would have provided exit checks on all people leaving the UK, has also been cancelled. The Department had spent £260 million on e-Borders before it was cancelled and has now been ordered to pay a further £224 million in costs (£186 million direct cost plus £38 million in interest) to the supplier for unlawful termination of the contract.[24] Taking all the costs of the ICW and e-Borders projects together (including legal costs) the Department is likely to spend close to £1 billion on IT projects for little return.[25]

12. The Department told us it had learned lessons from these failures and was moving away from large IT programmes managed by a single supplier, towards smaller, more manageable packages of work. In theory this should prevent IT delivery being hostage to a single supplier's performance. This new approach was being followed by the new Immigration Platform Technology (IPT) programme intended to deliver the capabilities that ICW could not.[26] This is being done at the same time as the Department is developing its business models to improve productivity and efficiency.[27]

13. The Department's failure to deliver IT programmes effectively has undermined its ability to track individuals who have been refused permission to stay in the UK.[28] The cases of people whose application to stay, work or study in the UK has been rejected by UK Visas and Immigration are put into a Migration Refusal Pool to await removal. While nearly 80,000 people left the Migration Refusal Pool in 2013-14 this was largely offset by new rejected cases entering the pool. In 2013-14 the number of cases in the pool reduced by only 8,000, with just over 175,000 people awaiting removal.[29] The Department told us that it had limited resources to remove people with no legal right to remain in the UK.[30]

14. The Migration Refusal Pool includes people who may have secured leave to remain through a different route, or left the UK voluntarily. In 2012 the Department contracted Capita to determine how many people in the pool had left and how many needed to be removed. By the end of December 2013 Capita had examined nearly 250,000 cases and found that 50,000 people in the Migration Refusal Pool simply could not be contacted.[31] The Department told us that they did not know whether these people had left the country or, if not, where they were currently living.[32] The Department told us that a system to identify people leaving the UK would be in place by March 2015. However this would only identify whether people entering the pool after March 2015 have left the country, it would not be able to check whether any of the 50,000 people already in the Migration Refusal Pool whose location is unknown have left.[33]

15. These 50,000 people are not entitled to benefits and the Department told us that the new Immigration Act includes measures to make it more difficult for people to access benefits to which there are not entitled.[34] In a subsequent note the Department outlined how it shares data with the Department for Work and Pensions in order to identify those claiming benefits they were not entitled to—benefit payments had been cancelled in 0.02% of cases checked. The Department also takes part in the National Fraud Initiative to share data across public bodies.[35] For example, after the Department shared information on people in the country illegally with the DVLA it revoked driving licenses of over 3,600 people. The Department also carries out a range of enforcement activities with other agencies in order to identify people in the country illegally—500 people were recently arrested after a series of joint raids with HM Revenue and Customs, the Department for Work and Pensions and Trading Standards. But the Department does not have a plan in place to track down and remove the 50,000 people in the Migration Refusal Pool whose location is not known.[36]

21   C&AG's Report, para 1.4 Back

22   Qq 162, 166, C&AG's Report, para 3.11 Back

23   C&AG's Report, paras 4.10-4.11 Back

24   Letter from the Home Office to the Home Affairs Select Committee Chair, 18 August 2014, p2  Back

25   Qq 134-139 Back

26   Qq 135-137 Back

27   Qq 162-171 Back

28   Qq 60, 64, 177 Back

29   C&AG's Report, para 2.18 Back

30   Q 73 Back

31   Qq 61-64, C&AG's Report, para 2.19 Back

32   Qq 70-73 Back

33   Qq 65-66 Back

34   Qq 74-80 Back

35   Written evidence from the Home Office to PAC, 12 September 2014, p3 Back

36   Qq 60, 76, 86 Back

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Prepared 29 October 2014