The government has been ordered to compensate an IT firm after an immigration computer system spectacularly failed. The eBorder system was ordered by the Labour government and was supposed to log the passport details and credit card information of everyone entering or leaving the UK.
At the time of its roll out there were serious concerns about the collection of such vast amounts of sensitive data. However these concerns proved to be unfounded when the system did not work and left one in five visitors unchecked. This amounted to 20 million people, and meant the UK could not tell how many people who entered the country actually left.
The system was also supposed to check every single person against a terrorist and criminal watch-list. The intention was to stop terrorists getting into the UK and criminals getting out, but the huge loophole meant that this did not work in practice.
In the end the government cancelled the project. It is not clear who was the blame for the failure but this was just one example of a whole raft of big IT projects attempted by Labour that ended in disaster.
The American security firm behind the system, Raytheon Systems Limited took the government to an Arbitration Tribunal which found the decision to scrap the system was flawed. As a result the company has been awarded a total of £220m in compensation. This includes £9.6 million for disputed contract change notices, £126 million for assets acquired through the contract between 2007 and 2010 and £38 million in interest.
The Home Secretary Theresa May was reported in the Daily Mail as saying: “The Treasury will work with the Home Office to make sure these costs are met without any impact on frontline services.
We are looking carefully at the tribunal’s detailed conclusions to see if there are any grounds for challenging the award.
“The Government stands by the decision to end the eBorders contract with Raytheon. This decision was, and remains, the most appropriate action to address the well-documented issues with the delivery and management of the programme.”
The Home Secretary said key milestones had been missed by Raytheon in 2010 and parts of the programme were running at least a year late.
“The situation the Government inherited was, therefore, a mess with no attractive options,” she said. “All other alternatives available to the Government would have led to greater costs than the result of this tribunal ruling.”
The National Audit Office will now look at how the last government got itself into such difficulties with the project. The coalition has an unofficial policy of dumping or reforming most government IT projects. Almost all have been over budget and failed to deliver their objectives.