UK visa processing system '£28m over budget'

17 Jul 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The computer system built for the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and the Border Force to process UK visas and other immigration matters is £28 million over budget.

This is according to an investigation conducted by the National Audit Office, which revealed that the £385 million computer system is also a year behind schedule.

The news is the latest in a line of problems with the government's changes to the UK immigration system, of which there have been many.

However, the IT issues were not the only things flagged up in the report. The office also stated that border staff cuts saw the UKBA workforce reduced by 1,000 more than planned. With no Agency-wide strategy in place and the previously mentioned problems with the computer system, the UK immigration authorities witnessed a dip in performance to the extent that they were forced to take on new workers to plug the gap.

This hiring of additional temporary employees and the paying of existing staff for overtime is posing a hurdle to the UKBA's plans of trimming around £350 mill ion of its budget between 2011 and 2015. It had intended to cut some 4,500 full-time employees loose by relying more heavily on the automated system.

The audit office was heavily critical of the plan: "We found it had suffered from a loss of focus, poor governance structures and optimism bias in planning and reporting, although the Agency took steps to address these issues during 2011-12.

"Border Force workforce change has been hampered by the disjointed introduction of change measures and delay in implementation of a comprehensive operating resource model, which is needed to plan optimal deployment of staff."