The Home Office spent at least £830 million between 2003 and 2015 on the e-borders programme and its successors, delivering some valuable new capabilities, but has so far failed to deliver the full vision, according to today’s report from the National Audit Office.
In November 2007, the Department entered a contract with Raytheon, a US-based technology and defence company, to implement its e-borders programme. The Department terminated this in July 2010 citing a failure to deliver milestones. This was followed by a protracted legal dispute which was settled out of court in March 2015.
Today’s report finds that the Department spent over £340 million between 2006-7 and 2010-11 on the e-borders programme, a further £150 million on the settlement with Raytheon and £35 million on legal costs. Between 2011-12 and 2014-15, the Department spent £303 million on the successor programmes.
With this expenditure, the Department has developed new capabilities to receive and analyse data on those travelling to and from the UK. By 2010, the e-borders programme had built a new centre staffed by people from the Department, police and the National Crime Agency. However, the quantity of data analysed is less than planned with information provided on 86% of passengers travelling to the UK in September 2015 compared to a target of 95% by December 2010.
The Department has not yet built an integrated system and processes are therefore inefficient, with the Home Office unable to fully exploit the potential of the data it is receiving. Current processes include extensive manual effort, duplication of effort, and restrict the use that can be made of travel history records. Between 2011-12 and 2014-15, the Department spent £89 million improving systems that e-borders should have replaced and information about travellers is still being processed on two systems that do not share data or analysis effectively.
The report finds several reasons for the failure to deliver. The Department has lacked a consistent strategy or realistic plan for delivery. According to the NAO, the delivery plans for e-borders were too ambitious to be achievable in the timeframe and the Department has struggled to decide how to take the vision forward since the cancellation of the e-borders contract.
The Department has also underestimated the importance of stakeholders. During the period of the e-borders programme, it made unrealistic assumptions about the programme delivery without recognising the importance of managing a diverse range of more than 600 stakeholders. By 2015, however, there were signs of an improved relationship with plane, ferry and rail carriers.
There has been an inability to make decisions due to gaps in capability and resourcing. The NAO found that there have been eight programme directors on e-borders and successor programmes between 2003 and 2015.
The NAO finds that the Department has a culture that does not demand and use high quality data. The Department has only had measures of data quality in place for the information it receives on travellers since 2014 and these measures are limited in what they cover. The NAO also identified gaps in the management information used by the Department, including poor information on the number of people checked at the border and poor information on the effectiveness of processes.
The NAO report does find, however, that changes since late 2014 give some cause for optimism with particular improvements in leadership and stakeholder management.
“The e-borders programme began in 2003, with an ambition which has remained largely unchanged in the intervening years. It was due to have been completed in 2011. Since we are now in 2015, with the Home Office still not having delivered the original vision after expenditure of £830 million, I cannot view e-borders as having delivered value for money. Some valuable capabilities have been added to our border defences during the life of this project, though their efficiency is impaired by a failure to replace old IT systems.”
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office
Notes for Editors
Was spent on e-borders and successor programmes between April 2006 and March 2015
Home Office estimate of the proportion of people entering the UK in September 2015 for which transport carriers supplied advance passport data to the Department; compares to 0% in 2003 and a target (set in 2007) of 95% by December 2010
Target set in 2007 for replacing legacy systems with the new e-borders system; these legacy systems are still in use
People entered the UK in 2014-15
Predicted increase in commercial air passengers travelling through UK airports between 2014 and 2030
15% Reduction in total spending by the Border Force between 2011-12 and 2014-15. In the same period the number of people arriving in the UK increased by 11%
Programme directors on e-borders and successor programmes between 2003 and 2015
10 of 13 External reviews of e-borders and successor programmes rated red or amber/red by the Major Projects Authority or predecessor bodies
£150 million Settlement made in March 2015 by the Home Office to Raytheon Systems Limited resolving their dispute on e-borders
£89 million Invested since April 2011 on improvements to the legacy systems that e-borders was intended to replace
355 Individuals prevented from travelling to the UK by the authority to carry scheme between August 2014 and July 2015
In 2014-15, 118 million people travelled to the UK and roughly the same number left. Protecting our border across the many entry points, controlling migration, collecting revenues that are due and facilitating the legitimate movement of people and trade is primarily the responsibility of the Home Office.
In 2003 UK border controls relied primarily on systems and procedures that operated at the border itself. In the early 2000s there was a growing realisation in the UK and elsewhere of the need to do more checks before people arrived in the country, and ideally before they left their point of origin. It was against this background that the Department set up its e-borders programme. The vision for this, which remains broadly similar to that of the current programme, is to enhance the use of traveller information by: collecting passenger information from plane, train and ferry carriers about individuals entering and leaving the UK; analysing data before individuals arrive at the border, including, in some cases, preventing travel; presenting the results of analysis to border officials so they can make better-informed decisions about whether to allow entry; and creating traveller records so the authorities know whether persons of interest are in the country, and their travel patterns.
Delivering the e-borders vision requires that over 600 air, ferry and rail carriers supply data on people they are bringing in and out of the country, while around 30 government agencies supply data on persons of interest.
Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website. Hard copies can be obtained by using the relevant links on our website.
The National Audit Office scrutinises public spending for Parliament and is independent of government. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Sir Amyas Morse KCB, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO, which employs some 810 people. The C&AG certifies the accounts of all government departments and many other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to examine and report to Parliament on whether departments and the bodies they fund have used their resources efficiently, effectively, and with economy. Our studies evaluate the value for money of public spending, nationally and locally. Our recommendations and reports on good practice help government improve public services, and our work led to audited savings of £1.15 billion in 2014.