Home Office seeks senior official to oversee UK’s border IT systems

The Home Office is seeking a director of borders IT to oversee all technology and IT staff working on border controls.

The director of borders IT will have oversight of the systems used to monitor people entering and leaving the UK – Photo credit: Flickr, Danny Howard

The director’s role, which will pay £130,000, is to oversee the Border Force’s digital transformation agenda and will involve working with third party suppliers as well as senior staff in the Home Office and security and intelligence agencies.

A spokesman from the Home Office said that the advertised position was a broader version of an existing role of director for digital services, which will see the director reporting to Home Office Technology, rather than the Border Force.

He added that the change was to reflect the Home Office’s plan to bring the full range of IT services under one roof. This means the new director will have oversight of services designed to ease passage into the UK, such as the one that allows approved people to pass through UK borders faster and the network of electronic ePassport gates.

There will also be responsibility for the mobile working of Border Force’s maritime and remote operations and the IT systems that are used to collect information about people leaving the UK.

The job specification stresses the importance of the role’s responsibility for the £307-million Digital Services at the Border programme to update old border security systems, which was recently rated as ‘amber-red’ by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, meaning that successful delivery of the project is in doubt.

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The project, which began in February 2014 and is due to end in March 2019, aims to replace the Warnings Index system – used to run checks against individuals of interest to UK authorities – and Semaphone – used to gather data on flights to the UK.

According to the IPA report, the 2015-16 budget was £16.67m, but the final forecast was £17.89m. The Home Office said that the variance was due to additional costs identified during the discovery phase and an increase in the scope of the programme.

Since the IPA’s assessment – which was carried out in September, but announced late last week – the Home Office said that it had been directing more efforts to validating the forecast delivery timetables, but that it remained on-track for its pilot phase.

The Home Office said that the director of borders IT would be a highly capable senior technologist with a broad understanding of complex technology systems. They should be able to lead an extensive programme of reform to create well-connected interoperable systems across national, regional and local levels.

The move to bring all of the Home Office’s borders IT systems under one roof, and one person, follows critical reports on the Home Office’s management of border technology services, particularly those around e-borders.

In December 2015, the National Audit Office published a damning report into the Home Office’s e-borders programme, which collected, recorded and analysed information on people entering and leaving the UK.

It said that, between 2003 and 2015, there were eight programme directors on e-borders and successor programmes and that 10 of 13 external reviews of the programmes had been rated red or amber/red by the predecessors to the IPA.

Then, in April 2016, the Public Accounts Committee said that the Home Office was “complacent” and had failed to take responsibility for e-Borders.


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