1.The aims of the e-Borders and successor programmes will be delivered at least 8 years late and cost significantly more than expected, but no-one has accepted responsibility for this. In 2007 the Department estimated that, by 2011, it would have spent £600 million, built a new integrated IT system to replace the two older systems in use at that time, and be checking passport information in advance for 95% of people crossing the UK border. The Department initially tried to deliver this through a contract with Raytheon. That contract was terminated in 2010 resulting in a cost to the Department of £185 million. While the former CEO of the UK Border Agency acknowledged that the contract with Raytheon had failed she told us that she had not supported the decision to terminate the contract and believed that many of the required capabilities for border control had been delivered by 2010. Current officials claimed that the successor programmes to e-Borders had been relatively successful. However, in September 2015 the Department was only checking data in advance on 86% of those travelling to the UK, still less than the 95% originally expected by December 2010. The Department does not now expect to complete replacing its old IT systems until 2019, eight years later than planned, by which time it will have spent over £1 billion. Since 2010 the Major Projects Authority has issued seven warnings about these programmes. Former and current officials were worryingly dismissive that these warnings and concerns suggested fundamental problems and said that all recommendations had been implemented. It is difficult to understand where this confidence had come from, given the lengthy delays and continual warnings of ongoing management issues, which gives us cause for concern about the future prospects for this programme which is vital to national security.
Recommendation: In response to this report the Department should set out what it expects to deliver in 2016, who will be responsible for delivering it, and report back to us in January 2017 on what has been achieved.
2.The Department does not have a clear picture of the management information it has or needs to manage the UK border which is hindering its operations. The Department told us it checks 100% of passports at the border, but this is not the case. It does not, for example, check passports of those entering the UK via land or sea from the Republic of Ireland or all those entering via general aviation and general maritime routes. The nature of the UK border is such that we cannot expect 100% of passports to be checked, but the Department does not estimate the percentage of unchecked passports to determine what risks these pose nor does it adequately measure the quality of the data it holds on individuals travelling to the UK and on those of interest to the UK government.
Recommendation: The Department should set out what data it needs to manage the UK border effectively and when it will be available and report back to us on progress in achieving this in January 2017.
3.Continual changes in senior management have hindered the successful delivery of these programmes. A common theme in our reports and those of the previous committee has been a failure to keep people in the job long enough to take responsibility for seeing projects through, or managing them until a particular phase has been completed. This issue has been particularly acute for these programmes. The e-Borders programme and its successors have had eight programme directors including five in the critical years before signing the Raytheon contract. Turnover at junior levels has been similarly high, leading to frustration for transport carrier representatives who told us how constant staff changes meant consultations had to be started from scratch and explanations of industry concerns repeated. Senior staff turnover also makes it harder to hold individuals to account for delivering these programmes as each change inevitably leads to changes in approach. This problem looks set to continue. The current director of the border systems portfolio, identified by the National Audit Office as a key member of the programme’s leadership team for his experience of delivering technical programmes, is leaving in 2016 after just 16 months in post. Neither the remaining programme director nor the Senior Responsible Officer have been with the programme for long.
Recommendation: The Department should set out what actions it will take, working with the centre of government, to minimise turnover of critical staff until programmes are complete. In the event of staff leaving, there must be clear handover of programme knowledge to prevent repetition of work and to minimise impact on timetables.
4.The Department adopted a commercial approach for the e-Borders contract that could not cope with the challenges it faced. The Department’s contract with Raytheon required Raytheon to deliver its own solution to meet the Department’s requirements to a fixed price and timescales. Neither party recognised that this was unrealistic in a situation where government had detailed and evolving requirements and demanded high assurance that the solution would work. The contract included provisions to agree a partnering protocol for how the Department and Raytheon would work together which might have salvaged the situation, but these were never implemented. The Department’s commercial approach was in line with some contemporary government contracts, but guidance from the National Audit Office and HM Treasury available by 2007, when the contract was signed with Raytheon, was clear that requirements were likely to evolve in large-scale IT projects like e-Borders and commercial structures needed to allow for this. The Department told us that its immediate priority following the termination of the contract had been to prepare for the 2012 London Olympic Games. This took focus off the wider e-Borders successor programme. In the last six months the Department says it has introduced a more incremental and modular approach to delivering the programme but concerns remain and it is not yet clear if this approach will lead to successful delivery. The Department did acknowledge that the need for flexibility was a key lesson it had learned from the e-Borders period.
Recommendation: Departments procuring complex and challenging programmes should contract on the basis that requirements may evolve, for which a fixed-price and deadline contract is unlikely to provide value for money.
5.Throughout the programme the Department has underestimated the importance of securing the co-operation of other government agencies and transport carriers. Stakeholder management was a crucial success factor for these programmes as they needed to collect information from over 600 rail, sea and air transport carriers. We were told that the Department did not fully recognise the diversity of the industry, most obviously that aviation operators fit processes to individual passengers while maritime carriers generally work with vehicles carrying multiple passengers. Carriers told us that their early feedback to the Department on how to deliver these programmes was not reflected in Raytheon’s actions and that they were often made to feel as if they were being difficult. Since the e-Borders period, stakeholder relationships have improved significantly, and we heard how the Department was working with carriers to help them provide the data required. However, a clearer focus on the costs and benefits of the scheme to carriers, and the impact on their passengers, would improve this further as co-operation is currently uncosted and taken for granted. We heard, for example, that the additional costs on carriers and passengers of carrying out exit checks were not properly taken into account when implementing the change. We also heard that a clear benefit to carriers would be providing pre-departure notification that a passenger has an expired visa. Beyond transport carriers, the Department also needs to ensure the co-operation of the 30 different government agencies that supply data on persons of interest.
Recommendation: The Department should ensure all stakeholders outside the Department, such as other government agencies and carriers, are consulted at appropriate stages as programmes develop and that the issues they raise are considered carefully and responded to effectively. Departments should ensure that business cases are clear on the impact on stakeholders, such as carriers and passengers, of new requirements and monitor such programmes to ensure changes are integrated as smoothly as possible.
Prepared 1 March 2016