Home Office’s “highly manual and inefficient” e-borders scheme criticised by spending watchdog

National Audit Office says project likely to be finished eight years later than originally thought

By Agnes Chambre

03 Dec 2015

The Home Office has been criticised after a report revealed that a project to boost UK border security breaks down at least twice a week, despite costing £850m.

The e-borders scheme was created to collect information on everyone travelling to and from the UK before they arrived at ports and airports.

But a report from the National Audit Office said that despite the system being launched in 2003, the checks remain "highly manual and inefficient".

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The project was supposed to collect advanced passenger information (API), and it was created to allow officials to “export the border” and stop people embarking on journeys to the UK if they were considered a threat.

In 2014, the head of the UK Border Force, Sir Charles Montgomery, told MPs the project had been “terminated” in its current form. 

The NAO found that £850m had been spent on the project since its launch – £150m of which was an out-of-court settlement with firm Raytheon after the original contract was cancelled.

It is likely that another £275m will be needed by March 2019, the NAO said, with the project set to be finished eight years later than originally thought.

The watchdog found that API was only collected for 86% of passengers in September, despite the target being 100%, and said the data was not available for most rail and ferry journeys.

Immigration minister James Brokenshire defended the Home Office’s handling of the project.

"The e-borders programme was set up under the Labour government and when that contract ended in 2010, our immediate priority was to invest in stabilising the crucial but old-fashioned systems, to tackle the fast-evolving terrorist, criminal and illegal immigration threats faced by the UK.

"The Border Systems Portfolio, in conjunction with a range of programmes across security and law enforcement, is working effectively to keep our citizens safe and our country secure."

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