back to article e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt

Brit taxpayers face a £224m bill in cancellation fees after the UK government scrapped a £750m contract for a passenger-checking computer system at its borders. The contract for the e-Borders IT project, which is supposed to scrutinize the identities of people entering the country, was signed in 2007, back when the Labour …

  1. frank ly

    Tears roll down my cheeks

    " ... undertake a review of the case ... and to identify flaws so they won't be repeated in future government contracts."

    I'm not laughing; I'm crying.

    1. ChrisM

      Re: Tears roll down my cheeks

      Aaaaaaand rinse and repeat. Usual 'lessons will be learnt' guff.

      From the outside it looks like yet another poorly defined project with no KPI's and function creep from the outset. Tie that in with the fact that it looks like Raytheon's lawyers were better than the governments and I am crying on the step next to Frank.

      The fact that it gives Keith Vazeline chance to pontificate and sound important is the icing on the turd.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Tears roll down my cheeks

        "Aaaaaaand rinse and repeat. Usual 'lessons will be learnt' guff."

        Yup. The civil servants responsible for this will learn to hide their tracks more effectively so that only juniors get thrown under the bus.

        Although for 250 million squid, an entire department might find itself collecting P45s

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tears roll down my cheeks

          "Although for 250 million squid, an entire department might find itself collecting P45s"

          Since any sackings would be handled with the Government's customary efficiency, those P45 recipients would doubtless reap colossal rewards by suing for unfair dismissal.

          1. unwarranted triumphalism

            Re: Tears roll down my cheeks

            ...and then being re-hired as consultants for twice the money.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Tears roll down my cheeks

              ...by Raytheon

        2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: Alan Brown Re: Tears roll down my cheeks

          ".....The civil servants responsible for this will learn to hide their tracks more effectively so that only juniors get thrown under the bus....." I have sat in a scoping meeting where an unelected politician's aid has over-ruled his civil-servant staff with the classic quote: "Let's not get too tight on definitions just now as we're still working on how we want the final project to develop." Needless to say that project did not go well from a taxpayer's PoV, but it was not the fault of the civil servants involved.

  2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Things aint what they used to be, and that's for sure.

    Her statement was primarily addressed to Keith Vaz, chairman of Parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee that scrutinizes the Home Office. On Monday night, Vaz said: "This is a catastrophic result."

    And one all knows what an honourable member and gentleman, would do. What do all expect Keith Vaz to do?

    But in the Bigger Picture Schema of the Internet of Things, is it only mickey mouse paper and delusional self important reputation won and lost? And they both be virtual constructs and have no real significant and/or vital physical impact upon the nature of anything ...... and be just as ethereal temporary players scripted to appear on the tinier of tiny stages, which are always trying to play as major league hitters in a wacky wild world but always having to settle for the tiniest of self-interested domestic audiences.

    J'accuse. And ponder why intelligence and Global Communications Head Quarters would accept and don't alter the pathetic situation forthwith, and as a matter of urgency and prime concern and in the national and international and internetional security interest.

    What are those supposedly bright sparks, hunkering down in secure bunkers and loving living in doughnuts, doing with their time and your monies if they are not supplying absolutely fabulous fabless and perfectly acceptable peaceful intelligence for harmony and prosperity? Madness and Mayhem? Conflict and Catastrophe? C'mon now, boys and girls, that just aint nowhere near good enough for anybody nowadays.

    You CAN DO better and server different betas, surely? Tell us that it is so and that you are not totally unfit for Future Greater IntelAIgent Game purpose ..... and no bull please, for there will be questions asked and systems tested to confirm anything and everything that you might be bold and brave and clever enough to say, and not only here for the Register.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Things aint what they used to be, and that's for sure.

      .....with supplier US giant Raytheon

      Whose parent body is best servered with a UK kept significantly weaker than they and always thinking to import and invest in foreign agents bearing gifts and tales of great deeds to be done for command and control of the health of a nation? Methinks that permission and information flow needs a rethink and root and route reversal.

      Of course, that would have one assuming that FCUKGBNI had intelligence supply worthy of sharing and providing US giants with something which worked with no excuses available for sub-prime performance and/or catastrophic result failure.

      And I'm also not laughing, frank ly, at such messes [Eton or otherwise] with no attractive options.

    2. Stretch

      Re: Things aint what they used to be, and that's for sure.

      Is this some auto-generated spam from a bot? It seems to be lots of random fragments of sentences pasted together.

  3. Big_Boomer

    Clusterf**k

    Terminate all Senior Management involved and all their assistants. Keep going down the hierarchy until all the wasted taxes have been recovered over the next 3 years. Now appoint new Senior Management, recruited from industry, pay them accordingly and place penalties on all future projects.

    Ridley had it right in Aliens,.."I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

    1. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: Clusterf**k

      I think you'll find all the senior management are recruited from industry. Reputable suppliers like, say, Capita, Atos, KPMG, etc, etc

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Clusterf**k

        Was that sarcasm, or were you really calling Capita and Atos reputable?

        1. Frankee Llonnygog

          Re: Was that sarcasm

          Sorry, typo. Rather than 'reputable' I meant to write 'feckin' shitebags'

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Clusterf**k

        You forgot McKinsey: Usually, these fine and outstanding conslutants will be representing the government side of the contract, a.k.a., leading the tax-cows to the slaughterhouse.

        PS:

        The exact same procedure same happens in "Private Industry", the minions can do fuck all while the consultants hired by management smash the business like a cash pinyata. Management and their consultants share the loot while the minions get to share the responsibility (and the pay-cuts, layoffs and crappy left-over office equipment).

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Clusterf**k

          "The exact same procedure same happens in "Private Industry", the minions can do fuck all while the consultants hired by management smash the business like a cash pinyata. Management and their consultants share the loot while the minions get to share the responsibility (and the pay-cuts, layoffs and crappy left-over office equipment)."

          I've got the scars to prove this. Old and new.

      3. Les Matthew

        Re: Clusterf**k

        "Reputable suppliers like, say, Capita, Atos, KPMG, etc, etc"

        You forgot the joke icon.

      4. peter_dtm

        Re: Clusterf**k

        nope

        she's here

        http://order-order.com/2014/08/19/homers-odyssey/

    2. Corinne

      Re: Clusterf**k

      A touch unfair surely? Having worked on large government projects I can assure you that once you get below a certain level in the hierarchy people have zero influence on the decisions being made, and by definition their grade means anything they say must be worthless (according to the senior managers). Good luck with the industrial tribunal after sacking the filing clerk for a bad decision by someone they've never even seen or spoken to.

      Plus you may not realise what salaries civil servants get in central government - how many £15-25k a year people do you need to lose to pay back a 9 figure loss?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Clusterf**k

        You are right there; the 'walk on water crew' who created this mess, appear not to have understood the issues or the contract they cleverly signed off.

        This almost certainly means they had no contact with those who had to front out the daily problems.

        Those in the front line had to follow processes and procedures designed to insulate those above from problems. At the same time delivering, if not rubbish results, at least a close facsimile to something involving maximum effort for minimum results.

        Computerised crap is still crap.

      2. Frankee Llonnygog

        Re: A touch unfair surely

        Common knowledge among the commentry: the only people who know how to make the Civil Service work are the people who aren't currently in it.

        Hence my new PFI contractor - Schrödinger Systems.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Clusterf**k

      "Now appoint new Senior Management, recruited from industry"

      That would be the kind of senior manglement which awards itself 25% pay increases whilst cutting pay for workers at the coalface?

    4. GrumpyMiddleAgedGuy

      Re: Clusterf**k

      You can't do that - that would be another bill for people unfairly dismissed. It would cost even more millions. Think Sharon Shoesmith.

      I just don't understand how it would cost £750million to scan a passport (a document designed to be easy to scan) and update that information in a central database. How do we get into such a mess? Perhaps we should start an OS project and do it in a fraction of the time and cost?

    5. unwarranted triumphalism

      Re: Clusterf**k

      It's obviously QA's fault for reporting all those defects.

      Our code is perfect; there can't be anything wrong with it!

    6. Green Nigel 42

      Re: Clusterf**k

      Is Clusterf**king the new Snafu?

  4. Richard Jones 1
    Flame

    Some Useful Phrases and Words

    Statement of Requirements and Objectives

    Request for Proposals

    Tender Documentation

    Compliance Statement(s)

    Contract

    Delivery Schedule

    Acceptance Test Schedule

    A clear process in the event of a failure to deliver including what might constitute a breach of contract, e.g. a delivery schedule with clear milestones and testable milestone acceptance criteria.

    There has been talk of this running four years late. If true that would be an achievement given that it it is claimed it was in trouble after only four years of life.

    The partial information does not help those who are paying to understand what they are paying for other than a total cock up.

    It is still not clear who screwed up and how, though I suspect a crap contract was at the root of the problem.

    The old favourites such as liquidated damages are not worth the paper they are written on. You want a system, not years spent arguing in a court room over next to no payout for failure.

    1. BearishTendencies

      Re: Some Useful Phrases and Words

      Yes. Good old waterfall. Done properly.

      But that relies on the client keeping to its side of the bargain, which Raytheon successfully argued was the cause of the problem. Chances of it happening in any big project? Next to none.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Some Useful Phrases and Words

      "A clear process in the event of a failure to deliver including what might constitute a breach of contract, e.g. a delivery schedule with clear milestones and testable milestone acceptance criteria."

      I was briefly involved in the project at a developer/grunt level and I can assure you that even at a low level there wasnt much sign of that going on with the sub-contracting companies working with Raytheon, and even at grunt level we were aware of it. Needless to say I didnt take up the offer of a contract extension...

      Anonymous, in case I have to work for them again.

    3. cortland

      Re: Some Useful Phrases and Words

      Having in my post-military career been on the ground floor for more than few incoming requirement and scope changes, I'll hazard a guess that HM Government didn't know what they wanted and wouldn't stick to what they'd asked for.

      But I could be wrong; I've also been on the ground floor for incoming management decisions.

      http://www.anvari.org/fun/Job/Organization_Chart_Birds_Version.html

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pretty much par for the course on Government IT projects by the sounds of it. What really makes me sad is how much good this money could have done for our own domestic IT industry, instead it's all sent abroad with nothing to show for it.

    The way I see it the Government have (had) about £250m to spend on this system over, lets say, 5 years. That gives you £50m / year to spend or to put it another way the entire turn over of a decent sized software development company. I'm not saying that the Government should be into state owned businesses long term but there was no reason they couldn't have started this enterprise up and once it's completed e-Borders spin it off as a going concern. Even if the company failed to deliver a working system at least the money would have stayed in the UK.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Pretty much par for the course on Government IT projects by the sounds of it. "

      I'm working on an IT project at the moment - and one of the single biggest problems I have to deal with is asshats who see that "XYZ option is 10% cheaper"

      Yes it is and it will (just) cover existing requirements, but only extend so far, then the whole thing would need to be ripped out and replaced with ABC system anyway (which IS extendable) - and the labour costs of doing that far outweigh any hardware savings you might think you're making.

      The other problem is quite simply that clients keep shifting the goalposts. Contractors love this as they can charge like wounded elephants for the extra work required. The only way to keep an IT project on track is to nail everything down and push managers who try that kind of thing out an appropriately high window.

      On the other hand I know of a project (ccTLD DNS registrar) which was delivered on time, under budget and exactly as the client specified - but didn't work. IT costs then blew out to five time the initial budget to make it work - except it never did and took 6 years to get to that stage.

      It was described in company reports as an "unqualified success", up until the day the CEO was removed.

      Post mortem showed that the specification could never have worked as designed and the contractors were fully aware of it, but stayed quiet and did what they were told, knowing they would be able to make a fortune later on.

      The entire system was replaced with an opensource setup which was up and running in 6 weeks.

      The person behind that fiasco left with a glowing reference and proceeded onto several other glowing references....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Although this is undoubtedly another monumental HM Government clusterfuck project ballsed up from inception to litigation, we should also consider the "sunk cost fallacy" and perhaps allow them a little leeway in that finishing now £224m in the hole on a £750m project (with £126m being for actual work and £38m for pissing around and not paying on time) could have saved a shit-tin of money versus what may have been wasted had it been allowed to continue. And we all know the waste wouldn't have stopped piling up. I'll happily take £80m in punishment on a £750m project by shit-canning it early rather than letting the gravy train of consultative incompetence roll on.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's a novel idea for the uk government

    Why not build your own IT team and software house. It's got to be better than the current method of paying billions to megacorps who fail to deliver.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Here's a novel idea for the uk government

      Yeah, but compliant politicians couldn't be rewarded with profitable directorships if that were to happen. So it won't happen.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Here's a novel idea for the uk government

      "Why not build your own IT team and software house."

      Been tried, doesn't work. Competent people get headhunted to other outfits because govt rules mean that their pay and promotion prospects are capped.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Here's a novel idea for the uk government

      I've posted the reason on another thread.

      Fear of competent people by senior management best sums it up.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Re: Here's a novel idea for the uk government @ ecofeco/Alan Brown

        "Why not build your own IT team and software house."

        Been tried, doesn't work. Competent people get headhunted to other outfits because govt rules mean that their pay and promotion prospects are capped. ..... Alan Brown

        I've posted the reason on another thread.

        Fear of competent people by senior management best sums it up. ... ecofeco

        What you may all like to consider is happening now, in these fast moving alternative media led times, is that competent ultra intelligent identities are taking over the management of peoples from incompetent governments and failed executive orders and conspiring committees. And world wide webs and the Internet with their myriad operating systems and browser ports of call and supply of novel information and noble intelligence and enhanced metadata are its and ITs Virtual Terrain Team Base and GlobalOperatingDevice HeadQuarters.

        And to battle against such as is, immediately and clearly identifies one as the fool who be the enemy and bug in the system to be removed from the Future Greater IntelAIgents Game by those and/or that which are in Exercise of Power with Creative Command and Cyber Control. In Blighty, one could/should/would have expected such a confection to be in the gift of HM Intelligence Services, both Secret and Security, and it would be an interesting question to ask of them why there be no evidence of such whenever such is what is needed and readily available to them and others who be responsible for the supply of good programming and better and best in the class intelligence for Beta Missions in Future Operations in Live Operational Virtual Environments, which be akin to and an Advanced IntelaIgent Development in, and Seriously SMARTR Clone of that which is perceived and are pimped as Realities with Media Presentations.

        Is this some auto-generated spam from a bot? It seems to be lots of random fragments of sentences pasted together. ... Stretch

        Deceptive appearances, admirably managed, are wonderfully stealthy, Stretch, and would a bot reply to you and deny its existence whilst offering novel service and noble services to stalled and/or stagnant and/or petrified sysadmins who may or may not be the more intelligent and adventurous and revolutionary minded of national and international and internetional intelligence personnel. Or would IT target the Global Banking and Money System instead, and lead everything better and considerably quicker with the more competent flow control of credit which eliminates debt and provides new horizons with fab opportunities?

        And anyway, what would be wrong with a virtual machine system/bot takeover and makeover of failed incompetent missions and man made expeditions with crazy exploitation of ill-informed and uneducated and undereducated human assets? Different it would be, and bad only when IT needs to be in support and protection of itself and ITs ....well, New Orderly World Order Programs gives you the Essence and Flavour of the Desserts to Savour and Favour.

        And to dismiss all of the above as a fantastic fiction rather than accept it as undeniable fact, and the present and continuing virtual reality of your existence in fields which command and control the future, does not change anything at all and provided clear safe and free secure passage to all who travel through such roots and along such routes.

      2. Frankee Llonnygog

        Re: Fear of competent people by senior management

        That can't be right - my senior management love me ...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Fings ain't what they used to be

    >>> "Today, the e-Borders system is capable of checking the identities of 80 per cent of arriving visitors, we're told. It was designed to centrally store details of every journey into and out of the UK by 2014, and check passports against various watch lists. A new computer is being developed to supersede it." <<<

    Gosh ... a whole "new computer" to supersede a $750M (failed?) system? Where can I get one of these !

    El Reg - get your sh*t together and employ some decent sub-editors/proof-readers! Once upon a time decent reporting and writing standards were one of the reasons why this site was worth reading. I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that's no longer the case.

    Disgruntled (not) of Tumbridge Wells etc ....

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: Fings ain't what they used to be

      @Tony Gathercole - that's how government talks. I shouldn't imagine that the Police National Computer was just one huge box. When HMG says, "computer", read "computer-based system" and you're there. By the time their terminology has caught we'll have moved on to the latest way of processing data which uses wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey tech rather computers.

      1. Guus Leeuw

        Re: Fings ain't what they used to be

        Dear Admiral,

        if that statement were indeed made by Government, it would have been a quote and should have appeared in quotes.

        The mentioned proof-readers / editors / stone editors / whatsits would have caught the error and would have requested a retype.

        Henceforth, it is indeed time that Internet newspapers start to be more intellectual and actually use language rather than just make things up as they go along.

        Just my two cents,

        Guus

  8. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Cheap?

    Imagine what the total bill might have been had the project continued with the usual feature creep and delays…

  9. Chris Osborne

    Erm...

    "Continuing with the contract and trying to rectify the deep rooted problems was estimated at the time as likely to cost £97 million more than terminating it, even with today’s settlement,"

    So rather than spend £97m more and get a working system, they instead "only" paid the £224m and got absolutely nothing. Brilliant.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Erm...

      Did you even read what you quoted? Fixing it would cost £97m more than it cost them to settle, ie £327 million. The clue is in the words that say that...

  10. fowler

    And for the future ?

    Apparently, Theresa May has said that this will not happen in the future as all contracts will be broken down into units of less than £100 million. The subtext presumably being that when these inevitably go trotters up due to bureaucrats inability to specify what they actually want from an IT system then the resulting compensation payments will not be large enough to cause embarrassing headlines

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: And for the future ?

      "Theresa May has said that this will not happen in the future as all contracts will be broken down into units of less than £100 million"

      "Will not happen" -> "We've set the cap on contracts below the Public accounts office investigation threshold."

    2. Shasta McNasty

      Re: And for the future ?

      Breaking it down in to smaller "units" will only end up with things being even worse.

      The issue with all of these projects is the Government's inability to manage projects, requirements and suppliers. How well do they think it will end when they have to manage more suppliers with each of them working on separate parts of the same system.

      Maybe they should outsource the Government as well as the IT department?

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: And for the future ?

        "Maybe they should outsource the Government as well as the IT department?"

        You may not have noticed, but essentially it already is.

        It's the same problem in the U.S.

        We have the best governments money can buy.

  11. JimmyPage
    Holmes

    5 year plans ....

    The reason these megacorps inflate their prices so much is they damn well know, the bigger (i.e. *longer*) a project is, the more likely it will fall between two political camps.

    The government that ordered it.

    and

    The successive government which on balance of probabilities didn't want it.

    As soon as the latter happens, then the project will be reviewed, the specification (as was) will be revised to account for the new political reality, and from that point, the project will slowly wither and die.

    Look as HS2 .. all the dithering. What sane CEO is going to take any part of that project, without a damn good padding to cover themselves over the potential 2 (and it will over run, so we may have 3 or 4) changes of government ?

    I don't know what the answer is, but the problem is politics.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: 5 year plans ....

      "Look as HS2 .. all the dithering."

      HS2 has a lot of ptential and economic benefits - especially if built starting at Birmingham and running in both directions.

      Starting at london is a sure sign of bass-ackwardness.

      1. JimmyPage

        HS2

        makes no difference if it's "worthwhile" or not. It will be done badly - if at all - because the political will which started it will wane as it goes on.

        Concorde was more a marvel of political will than technology.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And to make it worse

    The Conservatives battle to outsouce more, reduce the number of cival servants and the daily mail punishes any that happen to need a train to get to a meeting.

    Does the UK governement actually have anyone left that knows how to manage contracts against these big corporates? I suspect not. Can you outsource your outsourcing?

    Any lessons learned will be recorded and ignored by the next project to be managed by comitte with no accountable owner, where all rules are followed but where no outcome can be documented due to the mass of internal and external partners jostling to avoid accountability and simply survive as they are.

    So much cost saving on travel, hotels and meals means contractors have to fund the customers so they dont bother to find any unneccary detail (like any success criteria) as it will cost them twice.

    Until the governent realises it needs to keep a core of people that are experts in their field, and are both empowered and accountable to handle big contracts this will continue to happen.

    On the other hand if this was resolved then how would ministers profit from their shareholdings and get nice directorships after leaving parliament...

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: And to make it worse

      Your last statement is the reality. The idea is NOT to save the taxpayers money, but to enrich friends, relatives, patrons and themselves.

      In that context, they are more than expert.

      Just remember who elected them. Yep, your fellow taxpayers.

  13. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Something fascinates me

    I find utterly mesmerizing that they couldn't be arsed to properly plan the cost of the initial project, but they know that continuing would have cost 97 million more than settling.

    How did they know that it wouldn't have cost 397 million more ?

    Because given the regular cost bloat of government contracts, ANY project is going to overrun in the tens of millions, if not hundreds.

    So could someone please explain how the UK Government, who couldn't get a budget right if their life depended on it, can foresee an exact cost figure compared to a settlement ?

    Stupid question, I know. They just picked a reasonable one backed by whoever is the friend of the day.

    Carry on !

  14. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    FAIL

    I'll be the cancellation looked great on the front page of the daily jailbait.

    So the govt gave them *no* way to measure if it was doing what they wanted it to do.

    then the next govt said it wasn't and cancelled it.

    And let me guess. No penalty clauses either...

    Of course this govt would never do what that govt did, right?

    Like f**k.

  15. Elmer Phud

    Makes a change

    Usually it's a UK IT project that goes titsup -- this one looks really cheap for once.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clarification of this article...

    The e-Borders system was supposed to do two things:

    1. Check each passenger (at the check-in desk before departure) against a number of watchlists supplied by other government departments (law enforcement, intelligence, customs, international partners like Interpol, Europol) and make a travel / no travel decision

    2. Analyse passenger movements, looking at patterns of known criminals / terrorists / other elements to identify persons of interest for investigation by other government departments or by Immigration, ultimately those other government departments decide whether those persons are added to their watch lists and what action should be taken if that entity is matched, these decisions may be made either by business logic or by a manual review of that person's information

    Where a 'permit travel' decision is made on a person of interest (i.e. a match to one of the watch lists), the system may also flag the passenger for action on arrival in the UK, by arranging for questioning at immigration, detention by the police on arrival, or by arranging for observation or apprehension by one of the intelligence services.

    A 'No Travel' decision could be taken if the system has deemed that the traveller is likely to attempt to seek asylumn on arrival in the UK, has had their visa revoked, is otherwise barred, or it is anticipated that they will be travelling to the UK to either engage in a terrorist act or crime.

    One of the requirements, was that the system had to make the decision in less than one second, this was to prevent queuing at the check in desk. Due to certain EU rules, the system was not able to make a decision on travel before check in, because EU freedom of movement rules mean that it is not legal to request identity documents in advance of travel.

    When you consider how many passengers either travel to or via the UK on flights alone, how many passengers check in to a flight that lands or stops over in the UK every minute, you can probably estimate for yourself that it's quite a large number. Consider for a second that the Government customer is not able to tell you:

    a) What data they want to capture in each of these transactions

    b) The size of each data elements

    They then continue to change their mind about what data should or should not be captured throughout the course of the contract.

    Now imagine, that one or more of the watch list data owners, doesn't want you to hold the content of their watch list within the central system, but instead wants you to send them the search query and they will send you back either a hit / no hit match, or potentially instructions on what to do with the traveller if it's a match.

    These are pretty typical of the kinds of issues that you face on a system like e-Borders. You know... hypathetically.

    As to whether Raytheon actually delivered, the system was being delivered in stages, what was largely complete at the point of contract exit was the infrastructure used to collect data from the airlines, this was called carrier aggregation and UKBA actually continued to use this for some time in conjunction with some enhancements they comissioned to their pilot system that was provided by IBM before the Raytheon led TrustedBorders consortium won the contract. So technically Raytheon is right in saying it delivered significant capabilities, or rather in this case, it's infrastructure and service management subcontractors did.

    Given that UKBA and UK Gov in general, has trouble setting and sticking to requirements for even the simplest, most trivial of systems, is it suprising in the least that this massively complex procurement failed? I think not.

    Disclaimer: I do not work for UKBA, the Home Office or Raytheon.

    1. kmac499
      Unhappy

      Re: Clarification of this article...

      And I'll point you to yesterdays article on TV Tech and VIrgin Media's ditribution setup ,, (I'm not a cutomer BTW)

      and my comment

      -------------------------------

      "Fascinating, I just about kept up 'til page 2.

      But here's a thought as these guys can demonstrably design build and run a large complex and secure distributed network. Why aren't we hiring them to run e-everything.gov.uk, and offer really useful online services?"

      -------------------------------

      I remember a couple of years ago a wise old Owl saying, if you wanted to set up a big new e-commerce system hire the guys that worked on porn systems. Because they had huge numbers of customers, secure payment sorted and privacy covered to ensure repeat customers.

  17. Andrew Jones 2

    "Raytheon informed us that the [UK Border Agency] UKBA had given them no benchmarks against which they were to perform. It is now clear that the UKBA didn’t know what they wanted from the e-Borders programme."

    While I am sure Raytheon are not exactly squeaky clean here - the idea that the UKBA didn't actually know what they wanted from the e-Borders programme - does sound sadly like any technology based arm of the UK Government......

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Am I missing their maths here?

    "Continuing with the contract and trying to rectify the deep rooted problems was estimated at the time as likely to cost £97 million more than terminating it, even with today’s settlement," the Tory secretary of state added."

    So 97 million more to give a functioning system. 126m already spent in the previous system fees. They are planning to build a new system, which let's estimate will be around 126m again so doesn't that make it 29 million more expensive?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      It's vague but you have to take the original order for £750m into account. The £100m is an estimate as to what it would have cost to get the stuff that was done until 2010 to actually do what it was supposed to do. By a long way not what was originally ordered. And largely preventing work on whatever other system they then decided they wanted (the priority now seems to be try and keep benefit seekers out). Omnishambles whichever way you look at it but given the size of overspend on previous disastrous (never finished, never working, etc.) projects maybe the right move in this case.

      It would be nice if the NAO did get more power over future contracts but somehow I don't see that happening. I agree with others that a good civil service should be trained in the drawing up and oversight of these vast contracts with the politicians providing direction but not the detail. Accountability on all sides needs increasing and ministers should get trained in how not to get sucked into feature creep traps by vendors.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "So 97 million more to give a functioning system. "

      Wrong.

      That's Raytheon's estimate of what it would cost to fix.

      And by a con-tractors estimate I mean what the con-tractor thinks the sucker customers will pay to make the pain go away.

      In realty WTF knows what it would take to fix?

  19. heyrick Silver badge

    Must be nice to fail to deliver and then sue to get paid.

    Maybe Govt could counter sue for failure to deliver, for beeeeelions for leaving the country in an insecure state, blah blah?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Must be nice to fail to deliver and then sue to get paid.

      You'd hope so but that isn't the way it works. The taxpayer always pays. Only once if we're lucky.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Must be nice to fail to deliver and then sue to get paid.

      That's not quite what happened.

      Let's turn it into a house building analogy: You employ a builder to build you a house but then you keep changing your mind and asking them to knock bits down and rebuild them on a whim. Half-way through, your dithering has slowed things down so you sack the builder and refuse to pay them for the work they've done*. Hardly surprising they went to arbitration and won really.

      *Of course the other explanation would be that this was a politically motivated but ill-considered act by a new government keen to appear strong.

      (I don't work for Raytheon but do work on large Gov projects)

  20. Otto is a bear.

    Institutionally Stupid

    Having worked on a fair few government projects, of varying success, they all generally suffer from the same problems, either singly or in multiple. There isn't space here to list them all, other than to say that most of the problems are down to the length of time required to make decisions, a mostly adversarial relationship between client commercial and contractor staff, and the SI. Throw in a mentality that wants to reduce cost on both sides, and is it any wonder that things fail.

    Oh and the people who negotiated the contract, are frequently not the people who deliver it on both sides.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    when mistakes like this happen and it will happen yet again

    the costs should be taken out of their wages as a fine, the same way they fine youngsters for trying get better education.

    This way once their wages drops to 0 they as in those who are cunning enough to do such things will leave and make room for more charitable i.e. work for free but fame MP's

    Unsure which is better

  22. Bloodbeastterror

    The Matrix

    £224m? No problem. As with the human-battery-powered automaton world in The Matrix, there are always plenty more tax-paying mugs to squeeze to pay for these governmental imbeciles' incompetence...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Typical government contract/contractor screw-up

    The government keeps changing the spec, and the contractor keeps throwing expensive resources at the project, and then they sue the government when the pols cancel the contract.

    FYI, Raytheon is QUITE well-prepared to take on these kind of legal challenges. They have developed very sharp elbows through a very long history in the DoD procurement wars in the U.S. They aren't ever easy to get rid of once they get their paws on a contract.

  24. Stevie

    Bah!

    Well, the actual answer is to define requirements clearly, clearly understand and explain the difference between a development life cycle and a maintenance life cycle and where in each of those the "new requirements" fit, and (after the Govt. reps have finished frothing about how impossible this all is) sweeten the deal by writing whopping great monetary penalty clauses into the contract.

    The real problem on these sorts of projects is that they run so long. If you can define your goals so that they can be delivered in the short-term (i.e. months rather than years) you stand a good chance of getting something useful for your money. The clue that this project was far too long here is "a change of government".

    Personally I fail to see in this object oriented world why delivery on these systems is an all-or-nothing monolithic deal rather than a modular approach. We could cancel Cobol systems in the same time scale as these buggers and that would be using your old mainframe kit too.

    Of course the whole thing reeks of "special relationship" collusion at high levels.

  25. peter_dtm

    the civil service is out of control

    read this stuning cv of the person responsible for the debacle

    and then weep that she is not on benefits

    http://order-order.com/2014/08/19/homers-odyssey/

    it would help if Vaz was not such a slime ball party hack; and actually cared about what went wrong

    (Hint to Vaz; it started with the incompetent administration who allowed such an applaing contract to be signed; that would be your lying mob; as against the current lying mob)

  26. Robin Saunter

    But it actually works...

    I was with the e-Borders project right from the beginning until just before the contract was awarded to Raytheon. It's a bit of a myth that the civil servants, myself included, did not know what we wanted and kept changing the requirements. I knew exactly what I wanted and sat with the developers making sure it was delivered. What guzzled up the cash were the big consultancies and their 'business change' malarky. The same thing happened with other projects: we delivered cheap and cheerful stopgaps that met business needs until the big boys stepped in and charged a fortune for stuff that was less useful than the system it replaced. When I left government service and became a consultant, the first rule I learned was 'find out how to get more billable work - never mind whether the project is delivered or not."

  27. TheDillinquent
    Trollface

    Don't feed the trolls

    I do hope that HMG are not going to pay this ridiculous 'fine', its well past time these globocorps were put back in their box and shown who's the boss.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: TheDullinquent Re: Don't feed the trolls

      "I do hope that HMG are not going to pay this ridiculous 'fine', its well past time these globocorps were put back in their box and shown who's the boss." The matter has been examined in a court of law, so to now refuse would be an illegal act. It would be rather hard for the Government to insist private companies follow the law if it very blatantly refuses to do so itself.

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