Elec. Telegraph: Siemens fined $6.75m approx. for passport fiasco

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk:80/et?ac=000154642417163&rtmo=VZP1VPwx&atmo=99999999&pg=/et/99/7/25/nsiem25.html ISSUE 1521 Sunday 25 July 1999

Computer firm fined [$6.75m approx] over passport bungle chaos

SIEMENS, one of the world's leading computer firms, has been fined by the Government for the bungled computerisation of the immigration and asylum service and the Passport Agency.

The Home Office reduced contract payments to Siemens Business Services by £4.5 million for delays at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) and fined it a further £66,000 for the passport problems. The delays resulted in a massive backlog of asylum and refugee cases and the issuing of passports was held up so much that some people missed holidays.

The chaos at the IND was demonstrated by the fact that until last October, it had processed up to 3,000 applications a month. This dropped to 995 in January. By then, the queues of personal callers to the IND's Lunar House headquarters stretched for hundreds of yards every morning. Many telephone calls went unanswered, and sacks of letters were left unopened around the offices.

The installation of the £77 million [approx. $108.5m] computer system, which was later branded "too ambitious" by the National Audit Office, caused huge disruption for thousands of applicants, including international business people and foreigners living in the UK. Managing directors of foreign-based multinational companies were told they would have to wait up to 21 weeks before their straightforward applications to enter Britain were dealt with. The delays cost the UK millions in inward investment.

The aim of the Siemens project, which was begun in 1996, was to switch from a paper-based to a computer-based system to speed up decisions on immigration and asylum cases. Siemens is just one of eight firms involved in Private Finance Initiative (PFI) projects for the Home Office which have been fined a total of more than £6 million for poor performance.

Other companies with reduced payments include a firm encountering difficulties with the installation of communications systems in prisons and late delivery of technology. Last night Alan Beith, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said the large number of bungled projects called into question the Home Office's management abilities.

He said: "Too many Home Office projects have faced serious problems for the issue to be ignored. There have been a series of delays, faults and failures to meet performance standards. These projects are in very sensitive areas such as the management of prisons and the processing of immigration applications. It is important there is full confidence in the contracts."

Mr Beith wants Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, report to Parliament about the failure of the projects. He pointed out that the Commons Public Accounts Committee earlier this year said: "Departments are accountable to Parliament not only for how they award PFI contracts but also for their subsequent operation.

"Both the award of contracts and the operation itself needs to be transparent. Departments should not hide behind unnecessary secrecy about these deals." A Home Office spokesman said the case showed that there was effective management of the projects.

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), July 25, 1999


Unless I missed it, there is not a single mention of "Y2K" in that article, even though we know that was the primary motivator for the system, based on previous accounts.

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.com), July 25, 1999.

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