Feeds

Govt scraps £80m computer system

Yet another high-profile cock-up

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

The government has scrapped a £77 million computer system for its immigration service, embarrassing ministers and adding to the catalogue of IT disasters in recent years.

The decision had to be deciphered from a written Parliamentary answer given by Home Secretary Jack Straw. He said the programme would not become fully operational. But the company behind the system, Siemens, will be paid up to the end of its contract (October 2003). It will be asked to improve the current, weak, system but not expand it to the original dream. The Conservatives said the scheme was "a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money".

The system - a document management system to speed up asylum claims - was awarded to Siemens Business Systems in April 1996 and had troubles from almost day one. It should have delivered the system in 1997 but failed. It then failed to meet the next deadline of summer 1998.

When it eventually appeared - 18 months late - the backlog of asylum seekers had grown enormous, sparking a hundred headlines and making it a main issue. In the current run up to a general election, asylum seekers have already become a big topic.

Of course, Siemens' system, when implemented, couldn't deal with the demand, creating a farcical situation as bad as that of the other high-profile government IT failure, the Passport office's new IT system which melted in June 1999. As luck would have it, that failure was also under the control of the Home Office and was run by - you've guessed it - Siemens Business Systems. Of course the Home Office kept saying everything was hunky-dory. Which was nonsense. Oh, and the Immigration Office moved office and sacked a load of staff in expectation of the computer system - none of which helped either.

Back in September 1999, one-man government IT watchdog Tony Collins from Computer Weekly foresaw the system's collapse. The system, which scanned post and official documents so they could be fired off to the relevant people, worked fantastically on one computer. But when you wanted to add other computers to the system, it all went horribly wrong. Siemens also underestimated the amount of processing power it would need to scan and move so many documents while retaining high security. The Home Office will now have to go with a part-manual, part-computer system.

Of 11 IT projects currently being carried out by the Home Office, eight of them are either severely delayed or severely over budget, said a Liberal Democrat spokesman. And of course, the whole saga sits alongside other government IT disasters such as the Passport Agency (Siemens), tax self-assessment (EDS), the Post Office (ICL), National Insurance (Andersen) and the Prison Service.

Doesn't bode well for the e-government dream.

Oh, we called up Siemens to try to get the technical low-down on the system but a snotty PR woman informed us that we won't be given any details for the "forseeable future". The company is knocking out a press release with the government which we can picked up off the wires. Apparently, after that "you may decide you don't want to write the story". We beg to differ. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Nokia offers 'voluntary retirement' to 6,000+ Indian employees
India's 'predictability and stability' cited as mobe-maker's tax payment deadline nears
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
It may be ILLEGAL to run Heartbleed health checks – IT lawyer
Do the right thing, earn up to 10 years in clink
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
Adrian Mole author Sue Townsend dies at 68
RIP Blighty's best-selling author of the 1980s
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Analysts: Bright future for smartphones, tablets, wearables
There's plenty of good money to be made if you stay out of the PC market
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.