British government to ink deal for yet another immigration database

Only £347m wasted in last overhaul

Amber Rudd
Decision ... Home Secretary Amber Rudd

Exclusive The UK Home Office will sign a deal with Accenture to replace its clunky 1990s-era immigration and asylum applications system – having previously written off £347m in its last attempted overhaul.

The department confirmed procurements have been awarded to Accenture and PA Consulting as "caseworking delivery partners" to replace the 1995 Casework Information Database (CID). Contracts are currently being finalised and are due to be signed in the next week.

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Border IT is a critical area for the Home Office post Brexit, with MPs having warned the UK border could be left exposed after 2019 as departments have failed to plan for new systems.

Around 30 of the 85 IT systems currently used at the border will need to be replaced or updated in some way, said the Public Accounts Committee in December.

The department recently won an additional £60m from the Treasury for Brexit-related work in 2017/18 and another £395m next year. "The principal areas of spend are people and technology," said Home Secretary Amber Rudd last month.

But CID replacements have a troubled history. In 2010, the Home Office had hoped to overhaul the legacy database and 20 other disparate IT and paper-based systems with its "flagship" Immigration Case Work computer. After a series of delays and problems, it was closed in 2013 at a loss to the tax payer of £347m.

Spending watchdog the National Audit Office noted in 2014 that a £209m Immigration Platform Technologies programme was replacing ICW using an “agile approach, focusing on incremental improvements“ over the next four years, noting it still had far to go.

But as of 2018, the current process remains hugely paper-intensive, with vast archives of documents to support each case.

One contact said: “CID is probably top of the list for replacement in a world of Brexit and even without Brexit. The current system is a mess from the '90s and looks it.  It runs across Citrix client server technology which is unstable and accident-prone - daily or even hourly outages are common with complete loss of work.”

But he said much of the design of the system would be dependent on what policy for EU residents the government decided upon after Brexit - for example whether or not they will need visas.

An agreement was reached with Europe in December on the settlement policy intended to underpin the technology and software behind the CID replacement system.

Accenture and PA Consulting also recently won a deal to digitise the application process for three million EU citizens in the UK. But concerns have been raised about the wisdom of developing technology without clearer policy in place.

The project comes under the Immigration Technology Portfolio - which is supposedly delivering "digital solutions" to replace a number of older systems including the CID. No figure was provided for the deal, although it had advertised for Immigration Technology Portfolio project delivery managers on the digital marketplace for a day rate of up to £1,000.

Accenture and PA Consulting will work with a number of suppliers on the Caseworking Project: 6Point6; Atos; BJSS; Capgemini; Cognizant; Deloitte Digital, IBM and Mastek. ®

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