UK immigration wasted £350m on useless IT system says report

The UK government has wasted £350m on a new IT system which was designed to manage immigration and asylum applications, according to a recently published report by the UK government's National Audit Office; which conducts value-for-money audits on public bodies.

The Immigration Case Work system (ICW) was commissioned in 2010. There were numerous problems with ICW. For example it did not interact with other government networks. It was abandoned last August. The government has since commissioned an alternative system which will cost a further £200m+ by 2017.

ICW was designed to 'improve the quality and accuracy of casework'. It is safe to say that it did no such thing. It was meant to replace previous systems such as the Casework Information Database and 20 other IT-based and paper-based information recording systems. It was due to be fully operational by March of this year. It was abandoned at a cost to the taxpayer of £350m.

Cost to taxpayer

The Home Office has been forced to keep using the Casework Information Database (CID) and other outmoded systems that ICW was designed to replace. This too is costing the taxpayer a great deal of money as the CID is inefficient and outdated.

Among the problems with the CID are the following;

  • There are no controls to ensure that staff enter information correctly and so many case files contain inaccurate information. Many files are incomplete and unusable.
  • The system is 'unusable' for long periods. It freezes regularly. The system has been improved so that this is now less of a problem but it is still inadequate for the task
  • The system does not interact with other IT systems which means that staff are forced to manually enter data into all systems in order to be able to cross-reference files.

The Home Office has since commissioned yet another IT system The Immigration Platform Technologies (IPT). This is due to be online by 2017. It is currently forecast to cost the taxpayer a further £209m.

Agile system

The IPT is intended to be an 'agile' system which will focus on 'smaller faster projects to give incremental improvements'. A tool for online applications for some visa types has already been 'rolled out'.

But the NAO says that the UK's immigration directorates still 'rely heavily on paper-based working'. Staff use the CID but also keep paper versions of all cases in filing cabinets. UK immigration offices were due to go 'paperless' in 2014 but there is no sign that this is going to happen in the near future.

This is yet another in a long line of UK government IT disasters. In April this year, it was revealed that the government had wasted over £131m on the universal credit benefits computer system.

Disaster

This system, which was meant to be handling all benefits claims by 2015 is, so far, handling fewer than 5,000 cases.

The largest UK government IT disaster to date was revealed in 2011 when the government scrapped a planned computer system for the National Health Service. The system was commissioned in 2002 and never worked. It cost an estimated £12.7bn.

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