An investigation into border security checks in the UK has found that a pilot last year, which allowed easing of security checks on certain groups or individuals, was not properly analysed due to failings in a HMRC IT system.
The recording of some vital border processes used an IT system owned and operated by HM Revenue and Customs, which "did not easily lend itself" to producing the the data needed by the UK Border Agency, said the report from the Independent Chief Inspector to the agency.
The pilot, titled "Level 2", was authorised by the Home Secretary on 22 July 2011 and ran from 29 July to 4 November 2011, where measures were operated a total of 2,081 times at UK ports.
The Level 2 pilot was introduced as a risk-based approach to border checks, where it was no longer routine for Border Agency staff to either open the biometric chip within European Economic Area (EEA) passports, or perform checks on EEA children where they were travelling in obvious family units or school groups.
The pilot's measures could be introduced when UK ports were experiencing queues that were difficult to manage. To ensure the pilot was not negatively impacting UK security, the Home Secretary required that performance during the pilot period was compared with performance during the same period in 2010.
This was to take the form of weekly reports. However, the paper released this week found that the weekly updates were not balanced, did not reflect the impact of Level 2 on immigration work, presented an inaccurate picture of performance in relation to Level 2 and could not be relied upon to determine its success.
"We were told this was because the recording of commodity seizure outcomes used an IT system that was owned and operated by HM Revenue and Customs, which did not easily lend itself to producing the type of management and information reports required by the Agency," reads the report.
"This meant that the data could not be easily analysed. So, on a monthly basis, the National Operations and Performance Directorate [the body charged with carrying out the audit] received 'data dumps' which were manually manipulated into 'commodities' to enable analysis," it continues.
"But even then, this required more work to collect information that was either missing or entered incorrectly when originally entered".
The report states that despite the failings in the HMRC system, more performance information should have been provided in the weekly update reports as separate immigration statistics could be used from a separate IT system, the Agency's Case Information Database.
The report reads: "We were told by staff that the reporting mechanism put in place was seen within Border Force as a tool to provide a 'snapshot' of activity during the Level 2 pilot, rather than providing a detailed picture of performance".
Home Secretary Theresa May announced yesterday that the UK Border Agency would be split in two, where it would become a separate law-enforcement body, following numerous revelations about failed border checks carried out in the last few years.