14.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. e-Borders and its successor programmes continue this trend. There have been eight programme directors in the e-Borders and successor programmes, including five in the critical years before signing the contract with Raytheon. Since 2010 there have also been five different senior responsible owners for the programme. The National Audit Office found that the turnover in senior management has been mirrored at junior level.
15.The Department admitted that it had struggled to get the right leadership and governance in place, but told us it had now done so. In 2014 the Department reformed the previous single-programme structure for the successor programmes to a portfolio of programmes, each with its own leadership and programme board but under one overarching governance board. In October 2014, a new programme director for the main successor programme was appointed with a background in stakeholder management. At the same time a new portfolio director with technical expertise was appointed. In May 2015 the chief operating officer for the Border Force directorate became Senior Responsible Officer for the main e-border successor programme. While this senior management team provides greater confidence that these programmes would be delivered, problems with staff turnover seem set to continue as the director of the portfolio left in January 2016 after only 16 months in the post.
16.Carrier representatives told us that changes in the e-Borders team meant they had to repeat consultation exercises to explain their requirements and concerns to programme staff. Carriers also said promises the Department had made to industry had not been kept. Staff turnover makes it difficult to hold individuals to account for progress delivering these programmes as changes in leadership inevitably lead to changes in strategy and scope.
17.The e-Borders contract was a fixed-price contract, designed to incentivise Raytheon to deliver a working system by ensuring payments were made only when progress milestones had been achieved. Such an arrangement is similar to other contracts being operated across government at the time. However, 2003 HM Treasury guidance on PFI in IT—a broadly comparable financial arrangement—was clear that fixed-price contracts were not suitable for large-scale IT projects and that better outputs were being achieved where contracts had been renegotiated to provide more flexibility. National Audit Office guidance on IT procurement from the time corroborates the need to break development and implementation into manageable steps which a fixed, milestone-based, payment arrangement cannot do.
18.The former Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency told us that, in making the decision to contract on this basis, she took comfort from the fact the arrangements went through the former Office of Government Commerce’s standard procedures at the time and from the detailed negotiations held with Raytheon and the losing bidder. Raytheon said that while it thought the deadlines in the contract were relatively tight, it had proposed a solution it was confident it could deliver as long as the Department’s requirements did not change. However it became clear afterwards that the requirements were not fixed. This became particularly acute as the programme entered its second phase as the Department then wanted much more assurance about the proposed solution than Raytheon had expected in setting its price. This slowed progress and reduced the Department’s confidence in Raytheon. The e-Borders contract included a provision for a partnering protocol between the Department and Raytheon which might have helped the relationship, but it was never agreed.
19.The Department explained that following the cancellation of the e-Borders contract its immediate priority had been to prepare for the London 2012 Olympic Games. This meant ensuring that the basic capabilities to secure the border without long queues forming had to be delivered but the focus on the wider e-Borders successor programme was lost. After the Olympics, the Department wanted to improve the resilience of the existing Semaphore and Warnings Index systems, which should have been replaced and were now vulnerable in the face of a changing security threat. It was only in 2015 that the Department adopted an incremental and modular approach to delivery. This should provide the flexibility needed to match the changing requirements of the border environment but it is not yet clear that this approach will lead to successful delivery as there are early signs of slippage. The Department told us that one of the key lessons it had learnt from e-Borders was the need to be flexible in managing a programme, de-risking it by taking it in a modular fashion and taking each module at a sensible pace.
20.For the e-Borders and successor programmes to work the Department needed to collect data on passengers from over 600 different air, ferry and rail carriers in order to collect advance passport data on their passengers. This is a challenging task: carriers have to make changes to their business in order to collect this information, which they have to fund. The amount of change depends on the industry and carrier representatives told us that maritime, rail and aviation are not equivalent to each other and that this was
not always recognised by the Department. Individual air travellers have to provide their passport information when booking their flights, however coaches with 50 people can turn up to travel on a ferry without giving advance notice.
21.We heard that during the e-Borders period relations between carriers and the Department had been difficult. Carrier representatives told us that early during the e-Borders period there seemed good consultation with the Department regarding their concerns, however when Raytheon arrived to begin work they were not aware of these issues and explanations had had to be repeated. Raytheon for their part told us that they did not own this strategic relationship and it was up to the Department to negotiate with stakeholders to ensure they would make the necessary changes to their business. Carrier representatives said that their perception was the Department had felt that they were “stonewalling” in order to avoid changing their businesses. The former Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency accepted that maybe the Department could have spent more time with stakeholders. Since 2010 the Department’s relationships with carriers have improved. For example, we were told that the Home Office worked well with ferry operators in order to implement exit checks in April 2015.
22.Carriers are expected to meet their own costs associated with the programme. British Airways, for example, told us that they had spent £1.4 million on implementing their requirements under the programme plus indirect business change costs. P&O had spent around £500,000 making system changes which did not include the, much higher, operational costs. Carrier representatives told us, however, that implementing exit checks had meant queues for passengers have become longer. They also told us that they do not benefit from, or get feedback on the benefit to the Department, of collecting advance passenger information. For example, carriers are not informed when a passenger has an expired or cancelled visa. If such an individual enters the country then the carrier is responsible for returning them and bears the cost. In addition, automated processing of coach passengers could reduce ferry operator costs substantially.
23.Carriers are only one of the stakeholder groups involved at the UK border. Once passport data has been received, this is matched to data on persons of interest held on the Warnings Index system that are provided by 30 different government agencies. Any Warnings Index replacement will have to be integrated with IT systems at those departments.
24 Overseeing financial sustainability in the further education sectorMajor Projects Report 2014 and the Equipment Plan 2014 to 2024 and reforming defence acquisition
33 PFI: meeting the investment challenge
34 Improving IT procurement
Prepared 1 March 2016