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Border force reliant on 26-year-old tech due to digital upgrade delay

Home Office's failure to upgrade systems will cost the UK an additional £173 million, NAO claims

Passport details being checked through a computer

The Home Office's failure to upgrade systems used by border control teams will cost the UK an additional £173 million, a new report has found. 

The proposed Digitial Services at the Border (DSAB) programme has been delayed and won't be rolled out until March 2022. 

Instead, border force staff will have to rely on a 26-year-old system to check whether suspects and persons of interest are trying to enter the country, according to the National Audit Office (NAO), with another 16-year-old system used for analysing passenger data also cited in its report.

The upgrade was originally planned for March 2019 and the failure to deliver on time will come with an additional cost of £173 million, according to the NAO. Worse, the report also warned of technical problems with the new system, with just weeks to go until the end of the post-Brexit transition period. 

Plans to digitise the boarders were launched way back in 2003, with a completion date of 2011. There have been repeated delays and a new plan (the DSAB) launched in 2014, but still no upgrade. The chair of the public accounts committee, Meg Hillier, accused the Home Office of failing to learn from past mistakes.

"The Home Office once again lost sight of the programme's core purpose, trying to add more and more features like baubles on a Christmas tree," Hillier said according to The Guardian. "The department plunged ahead without a delivery plan and didn't address risks. Failure was inevitable."

Auditors agree, stating that the Home Office "did not deliver improved digital border systems to its planned timetable of March 2019" which has "increased costs by £173m and means it continues to rely on legacy technology".

The report also revealed that the Home Office plans to remove all data from the Schengen Information System, the EU's police and security database, on 31 December.

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