The UK Border Agency's hopeless IT systems are among the reasons why the Home Secretary Theresa May, in an unscheduled statement to MPs yesterday afternoon, confirmed that the UKBA will be axed.
She told the House of Commons that the agency would be replaced with two entities: an immigration and visa service and a separate law enforcement organisation. Both outfits will report directly to ministers in the Home Office. The previous agency status will be altogether scrapped.
UKBA was given agency status in order to keep its work at an arm’s length from ministers. That was wrong. It created a closed, secretive and defensive culture.
The Home Secretary was particularly scathing of the UKBA's "inadequate" IT systems for being "incompatible" and unreliable.
"They require manual data entry instead of automated data collection, and they often involve paper files instead of modern electronic case management," said May. "So I have asked the Permanent Secretary and Home Office Board to produce a new plan, building on the work done by Rob Whiteman, UKBA’s chief executive, to modernise IT across the whole immigration system."
The Home Sec said that the UKBA had been riddled with problems since its formation in 2008 and highlighted four distinct problems with the agency - with IT systems being one of those issues.
May said it operated within a "complicated legal framework" and that its unwieldy nature meant there were "conflicting cultures" within the organisation. She argued that the UKBA's current agency status meant that it had lacked "accountability and transparency".
"All those things mean it will take many years to clear the backlogs and fix the system," the Home Sec said.
This is the latest and now final dismantling of the UKBA.
In February last year, May divorced Blighty's Border Force from the agency following a series of embarrassing passport check gaffes in 2011.
During the busy summer months of that year, immigration border guards had been told to ignore biometric chips on the passports of non-eurozone citizens. The blunder led to UK Border Force chief Brodie Clark being scalped by May.
In 2012, the National Audit Office found that a £385m computer system being built for the UK's Border Agency and Border Force to process immigrants' paperwork was a year behind schedule and £28m over budget. ®