Home Office biometrics scheme delays delivery date and faces cost ‘pressures’

Written by Sam Trendall on 15 May 2023 in News

Updated assessment reveals £27m in additional spending and possibility that department ‘will consider reduced programme scope’

Credit: Stefan Schweihofer/Pixabay

The expected completion date of Home Office’s £1bn-plus programme to deliver a new national system for authorities’ use of biometric data has been pushed back by six months as the scheme faces cost “pressures”.

The department has published an updated accounting officer assessment for the Home Office Biometrics project which reveals that the delivery date has been formally moved: from 30 September 2024 to 31 March 2025.

The assessment also details that spending on the programme from now until its scheduled completion will be £27.7m more than expected. This includes of £19m of “underspend due to delayed supplier delivery” in the past two years, £5m in “increased costs for delivery”,  and £1.4m in spending related to the running of the Strategic Matcher platform that has been reassigned to the cost sheet of the biometrics scheme.

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The ultimate aim of the £1.15bn project – on which work began in April 2014 – is to implement unified state systems to support the use of biometric data across immigration, policing, and the wider criminal justice landscape.

The Strategic Matcher platform is described in the assessment as “a core component of the… programme and will provide the key interlinking capability to match fingerprint and face data”. 

Fujitsu was appointed in 2018 to a five-year £28m contract to support the creation of the matching technology.  But the Home Office is due to replace the Japanese IT firm imminently, after various issues and delays during its work so far.

The assessment said: “Stage 1 of Strategic Matcher should have been delivered by March 2020 but delays to resolve platform performance and stability, a period to address critical defects and a significant issue with the data which required all test data to be reloaded this year significantly slipped the projected go-live date by the current incumbent to February 2024. Delivery will now be taken forward by the new supplier.”

The review – undersigned by the project’s named accounting officer: Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft – added that the extra £27m in costs of the next two years will create “pressures” that could reshape the programme further.

“These pressures are being worked through with the department’s Medium Term Financial Plan and the allocation process,” the assessment said. “The programme will be considering prioritisations as part of this work and will consider reduced programme scope and a longer delivery timeframe if required.”


About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on sam.trendall@publictechnology.net.

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