Home Office forced to pay out over UK immigration computer system

19 Aug 2014 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The decision to cancel the overhaul of the UK immigration computer system has left the Home Office with a hefty bill to pay.

Home Secretary Theresa May took the decision to end the 'e-Borders' computer overhaul last month amid numerous delays and problems that plagued the project.

However, an arbitration court has now ruled that the US company behind the project, Raytheon, is entitled to a pay out of £224 million from the UK government, despite the fact that the project was never completed. The money is owed due to breach of contract by the Home Office, and includes a substantial £50 million payment for damages.

The tribunal confirmed that the Home Office had been found to have acted unlawfully by cancelling the nine-year contract that had been agreed between the company and the Labour government in 2007. Furthermore, the tribunal suggested that the cause of many of the problems on e-Borders was the now-disbanded UK Border Agency, rather than the company behind the system development.

Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Labour's Keith Vaz, who is also chair of the Commons Home Affairs committee, has described the entire system as a "catastrophe". He added: "I don't expect ministers to be experts in computer technology. But some of the people wouldn't know a computer mouse if it sat on their head."

"We've got to learn the lessons for future procurement," he concluded.

UK immigration minister James Brokenshire, added that the government still believed that ending the project was the right thing to do in light of the ongoing costs. e-Borders had already cost £259.3 million and yet there was reportedly no sign that it would eventually deliver on its requirements.

The National Audit Office has been asked to conduct an investigation into the matter and a further internal review of the deal termination will also be carried out.