UK Home Office seeks suppliers: £25m up for grabs to build database to keep track of crimelords' ill-gotten gains

Seized assets system is 15 years old, counts cash of fraud dept, tax bods, courts, cops and more

The UK Home Office is seeking out software vendors to replace a vital but ageing database that helps keep a track of criminals' assets accrued through illegal activity in the UK.

In a procurement which could be worth £25m, the central government ministry is looking to replace the Joint Asset Recovery Database (JARD), a live operational system managed by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

According to government figures from July 2018, the total debt from criminal confiscation orders amounted to just under £2bn, of which £152m is considered "recoverable". Part of JARD’s job is to keep track of the recovery of assets through these orders.

Database entries come from law enforcement and prosecution agencies, including the Police, Crown Prosecution Service, HM Courts and Tribunals Service, Serious Fraud Office and Local Authorities.

The database, which also records the recovery of assets in tax cases, dates back to 2004, is monitored by the Home Office, and managed by the National Crime Agency. The Home Office has not so far responded to The Register’s questions about which vendor built the system.

But after around 15 years, it is sorely in need of renewal.

According to a Prior Information Notice for early engagement with the IT market, “JARD is an ageing system that has been modified and updated on a number of occasions over its 15-year plus lifecycle. It is now, however, reaching the end of its useful life as it is not conducive to modern expectations of electronic data capture and subsequent analytical filtering and manipulation.”

The new procurement is not the first effort to improve the system’s performance: The government’s response to a Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee report from 2016 said that from April 2014 to March 2016, the Home Office invested £2.74m in the JARD system, “including through a three-year improvement plan to ensure that it can provide a modern platform for current and future enhancements and also improving the data quality across agencies.”

Joint work by HM Courts and Tribunal Service, with the support of the National Crime Agency, cleansed 5,000 records, improving the accuracy of the information available to operational agencies and reducing the notional value of outstanding confiscation orders by £13m, the government said.

“The improvement plan delivered immediate technical improvements to JARD by June 2015, and further work to complete the enhancements to the confiscation orders section of JARD will continue until the end of 2017,” it said.

Presumably the improvements were so significant and the platform so “modern” that it would need to scrapped entirely three years after the programme ended.

Fancy a try? In its tender notice, the Home Office said suppliers must express their interest by 25 September 2020. Suppliers are expected to say how “they would approach implementation and validation of potential costs for build, operate and maintain such a system for a five year period,” it said.

The Home Office expects to issue a call for competition in 2021. ®

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