back to article Delayed UK digital border system was only stable enough to be used by 4% of intended users, MPs say

Stability problems with the UK Border Crossing system meant only 300 staff were able to use the delayed software in December last year, well short of the 7,000 expected to use it by June 2021, according to a report by MPs. Difficulties developing the software vital to monitoring who comes in and out of the UK is just one of …

  1. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Take back control of something you always had control of... and here's a massive bill for it.

    1. sad_loser
      Meh

      the bill is for incompetence, not brexit

      Mis-specification and poor project management are usually skulking not too far below the surface.

      The root cause for this is the government insistence that IT jobs are clerical and therefore on a low payscale, rather than a professional level like accounting / legal / medical.

      [reg needs a peanuts icon?]

  2. nematoad Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Just SOP.

    Why should the Home Office or any other department of government worry about wasting money? Its not theirs, its ours. No-one ever gets fired or otherwise disciplined for such cock-ups. There is no accountability or action taken apart from the sort of ineffectual wrist slap we see here. So why should anyone bother to do anything about it?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Just SOP.

      So long as the red-tape costs less than £350M/week we are ahead !

    2. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: Just SOP.

      Your money is going into the hands of private contractors, so in a way it goes back into the economy ...

      The sad thing is they don't provide something valuable in return but still get public contracts (For instance, about the aforementionned Raytheon: Raytheon enters into £250 million contract with UK Ministry of Defence). Is that incompetence, is that corruption? Don't expect any inquriy about it.

    3. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Just SOP.

      Sadly the money really belongs to those on whom the money would have been spent, rather than the taxpayers, it should have belonged to 'baby Peter'*, Victoria Climbie*, the Social care 'system', the probation services, child protection and children homes etc. etc. etc., and everyone who needed support from the state.

      *Both killed in childhood despite repeated warnings to Social Services of the dangers they were in

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Just SOP.

        Wow, a downvote for caring about abused children.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not our fault!

    It's the EU.

    It's the immigrants.

    It's Ireland.

    It's the Chinese.

    It's Biden and the Democrats.

    It's the international cabal of child-eating globalists.

    [Rinse and Repeat]

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    that's going to cost taxpayer £173m

    that's precisely / about 40% of one of those NHS hospitals promised around AD 2016.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: that's going to cost taxpayer £173m

      although, arguably, it's got nothing to do with brexit, just usual string of failures going back to 2011...

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: that's going to cost taxpayer £173m

        I think it goes back much further than 2011, the political flavour of UK leadership has been bland a d ineffective for decades.

        Re, government IT projects, I can imagine a day may come in the future when British forces will be threatened by an enemy approaching the borders and all they will be a le to do is throw stones and shout 'Bang' because some hyper expensive failed IT procurement won't allow them to draw ammunition.

  5. MJI Silver badge

    Knowing how long software takes

    The specification should have been signed off at least 5 years ago and development started at a similar time, even back to say 2015.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Knowing how long software takes

      Given that it is a government IT project that crosses multiple departments it would probably have been best to start Brexit IT development before the UK joined the Eu

  6. Warm Braw Silver badge

    7,000 expected to use it by June 2021

    On the bright side, the slump in EU trade means the capacity issues will likely solve themselves.

    1. Frederic Bloggs

      Re: 7,000 expected to use it by June 2021

      Well yes. If you mean that replacement for customs control is causing sooo much trouble for both exporting and importing (especially, but not limited to, the EU), that more and more enterprises are not bothering to do either if they can avoid it. They are pivoting to UK markets for (now) cheaper parts and lower cost of sales.

      Which, if successful, will be claimed as a "Brexit Bonus", but I am sure is actually completely unintentional because none of the new IT, that is required works, and the old system is capacity limited.

      It occurs to me that, if the "government" had actually started upgrading all the necessary IT (that any Fule Would Kno would be needed) and been seen to be doing it successfully, they might have got a better deal.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: 7,000 expected to use it by June 2021

        " more and more enterprises are not bothering to do either if they can avoid it. "

        good for the planet.

        win

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ESN

    Rumours suggest that they are now looking at 2025+

    1. Aladdin Sane
      Trollface

      Re: ESN

      Just in time for us to return to the EU

      1. Potemkine! Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: ESN

        I hope this time the EU won't be that stupid to accept the UK once again!

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: ESN

          They will if we give them all of Scotland's fish.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: ESN

      Rumours suggest that they are now looking at 2[0-9]25

  8. Anonymous Coward
  9. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Facepalm

    The department has struggled to retain people with the technical skills

    IR35 related perchance?

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: The department has struggled to retain people with the technical skills

      What do they mean 'retain'? After Mrs Thatcher ensured that as much IT and IT services were outsourced to UK and often foreign companies (EDS, Lockheed, IBM etc.) there was a distinct lack of technologically excellent civil servants who actually had to know how to compile a Unix kernel and get it working. 'Retain' implies they had employees with that competence initially and somehow lost it.

  10. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    You're going to have to be more specific....

    “caused by a lack of effective leadership, management and oversight,”

    Isn't this how the government does everything at the moment?

    Paris because somehow it'll be the French's fault.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've been wondering for a while if/how this project is going although it's of little surprise to me that it's still not got off the ground after a number of years.

    In the piece that I was working on, many of the problems were due the client not knowing what they actually wanted. They'd dictated using certain technologies and designs which in some cases weren't suitable for the intended task and there was practically a ban on innovation due to continuous overruling of anything that made the potential new solution any way different from the old one. In effect they were dooming themselves to repeat all of the problems and failures of the previous systems.

    Plus, some people involved who'd been working on it a long time; had dreamed up all kinds of weird assumptions like believing that someone's home address is encoded on a passport (hint: it isn't) and initially designing a massive 'big data' solution around the assumption that there's some magic single piece of data on every travel document which could act like a primary key.

    I often wonder whether any of my own contributions have survived in the current incarnation and what it even looks like now.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      "like believing that someone's home address is encoded on a passport"

      Did nobody involved have a passport to look at?

      I get problems here in France because the place where the passport was issued says "IPS". That's not a country, town, or other recognisable location. So if they can't manage something like "IPS, Swansea" (or wherever), what hope an actual address...that might change several times in the life of a passport?

      "there's some magic single piece of data on every travel document which could act like a primary key"

      Your name. Expect Priti to announce tomorrow that as of next Monday everybody must have a globally unique name. It would be utterly unacceptable to have sixty John Smiths in Manchester alone...

      1. Cynic_999

        You can exchange your passport for one in a different name simply by making a unilateral declaration (deed poll) that you have changed your name (and paying the necessary fee). Date of birth might be a better item of data to use, as that cannot be legally changed - although it will be shared by around 2000 other people in the UK so not exactly a unique identifier. The most common name in the UK (David Smith) is shared by over 6000 people (though that may well decrease a lot if a middle name is added).

        Maybe a person's NI number should be used as the primary identifier. Babies could have it tattooed on the sole of their feet in UV ink at birth, in either numeric or barcode format. Together with the words, "Property of HM government UK"

        1. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Date of birth might be a better item of data to use, as that cannot be legally changed - although it will be shared by around 2000 other people in the UK so not exactly a unique identifier.

          .

          But it becomes more unique with every passing year...

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            >Date of birth might be a better item of data to use.... will be shared by around 2000 other people in the UK

            Due to limitations of the new government IT system we can only support 999 people having the same date of birth. As an interim solution the government is adding 400 extra days to each year.

            1. batfink Silver badge

              ...or just executing any over 999.

  12. codejunky Silver badge

    Shock

    When did the borders last work? Certainly pre-labour's mass immigration cockup. New system after new system to try and cope with an increasing backlog and future capacity.

    1. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Re: Shock

      Now Brexit has stopped the hordes of European immigrants, such as Poles and Portuguese, and replaced them with non-European immigrants to do the jobs the former used to do.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Go

        Re: Shock

        "and replaced them with non-European immigrants to do the jobs the former used to do."

        It is what we voted for. Thanks Priti! ♡♡♡

      2. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Shock

        @Claverhouse

        "replaced them with non-European immigrants to do the jobs the former used to do."

        Well it reduces the special treatment for coming from the promised land. While some of my friends could come easily will little hassle because they are from the EU various other friends either cant come here or jump through plenty hoops because they come from the rest of the world.

  13. NerryTutkins

    hostile environment

    I am British but haven't been back to the UK since 2016. My wife is from Brazil, I have two kids and live in Portugal. Every time we came into the UK, they would stop my wife and try to refuse her entry, send her back to Portugal. Legally they couldn't, because I was an EU resident and eventually the argument would get escalated to the one person at the Border Service who actually knew the rules and would reluctantly tell the officers they had to stamp her in. Then the next time, exactly the same thing, like they seemed to be unable to put any note on her immigration record to avoid it in future.

    The last time I visited the UK was 2016, not long after the Brexit vote. Then, not only did we get the routine shakedown by the morons of the Border Service, I found that my home town felt different. Just going to the park with the kids we got disapproving glances because suddenly foreigners were supposed to be gone. My kids tend to talk Portuguese to each other, and suddenly this made people uncomfortable. After that, we had no particular desire to go again. It didn't feel like the friendly safe place I remembered growing up in. My parents moved over to the next street from us in Portugal couple of years back, and my brother already emigrated to the US, so no real reason to return. I still have the UK company, but now we're getting nastygrams from HSBC, looks like they're going to pull the plug because both of us live overseas, so it seems the UK doesn't even want our business either now. So we're probably going to move that to Ireland instead.

    All in all, the UK seems to be doing a fine job of this hostile environment thing. And I am not even a foreigner! Should help keep chaos down at the borders, if people just stay at home.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: hostile environment

      "It didn't feel like the friendly safe place I remembered growing up in."

      This.

      I have fond memories of growing up in the south in the eighties. Left in 2002. Watching the news, talking on the phone to people I know, hearing the amount of drivel that's ripped directly from the front page of the Express and treated as actual fact.... it's really not the place I remember.

      I, too, have no reason or desire to ever go back. Not even for a Victoria Sponge made by people who understand cake (for all their boasting about culinary perfection, I've yet to find anything that resembles cake in northwest France - the "quatre quarts" is....dismal).

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: hostile environment

      " they would stop my wife and try to refuse her entry"

      on what basis? Doesent everyone in the EU have the right to stay / live / work / holiday in whichever bit of the eu they want?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: hostile environment

        Only if they can prove the ability to support themselves. Otherwise they can be told to sling their hook.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: hostile environment

          really?

          oh .

          I wanna change my vote!

    3. 96percentchimp

      Re: hostile environment

      About a year after the Brexit vote, my partner, who's Irish, attempted to help an elderly white woman in our local tube station who was having trouble with her Oyster card. The response was a volley of ingratitude which ended in "bloody foreigners" and "go home".

      I'm white, I was brought up in the Midlands and I've lived in South London, places where people of all ethnic backgrounds rub along to get through life, but in the past decade, other white English people have become a hostile foreign culture that I no longer understand or want to be a part of.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    FAIL

    e-Borders

    I worked on an unsuccessful e-Borders bid. The client changed the requirements list regularly, insisted that "UK RESTRICTED" meant data that could not be sent overseas to our American colleagues, even though the NATO definition of "UK RESTRICTED" at the time was purely for foreigners to understand the data belonged to the UK. The requirements were mostly ok, but whenever they changed them they would re-number all of them, so the amount of re-working the documentation was enormous. They were also not that good about specifying security that could actually be delivered (I.e., was technically or physically possible).

    My real concern from the article was the reference that none of the Department's major IT procurements were expected to produce a usable IT system.

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