British Home Office

The following entry is a record in the “Catalogue of Catastrophe” – a list of failed or troubled projects from around the world.


British Home Office – UK
Project type : Immigration controls
Project name : e-Borders
Date : Mar 2014  Cost : £224M

Synopsis :
With changing security threats, securing a country’s borders has become an ever increasing priority. The United Kingdom’s efforts to secure their borders has suffered a significant set back after the now cancelled ‘e-Borders’ project has resulted in a £224M settlement in favour of the suppliers of the system.

Departure hall

Source: Wiki commons

Recognizing the threat to the UK the British Labour led government initiated the e-Borders project in 2003. Aimed at checking all movements into and out of the island nation, the project was intended to establish the levels of border control needed to address immigration and security concerns. Following project kick-off a pilot implementation was completed and in 2007 a contract was signed with a consortium lead by Raytheon Systems to develop the full scale system. Reports of problems emerged in 2008 as the British Home Office complained that key milestones were being missed. Problems continued for a number of years and following the election of the new Conservative government in 2010, the Raytheon contract was terminated. Although the project itself soldiered on, continual failures to deliver resulted in the project itself being cancelled in March 2014. The project’s requirements have now been reallocated to other ongoing initiatives or projects as the UK government continues its efforts to achieve the goals originally set back in 2003.

While the project itself clearly encountered significant difficulties, perhaps the most embarrassing misstep is the handling of the Raytheon contract. Following the contract’s termination in 2010, Raytheon threatened to sue the British government. Claiming up to £500M in damages, Raytheon argued that the lengthy delays were caused by the UK Border Agency’s mismanagement of the project rather than deficiencies in their own execution. Rather than going to court, the parties agreed to use binding arbitration. That process reached its conclusion in Aug 2014 with the arbitrators finding in favour of Raytheon.  The £224M settlement includes £50m in damages, £126m for work completed prior to the contract being terminated, £10m to settle complaints relating to changes to the original contract and £38m in interest payments.

Contributing factors as reported in the press:
Lack of control over procurements. Failure to establish appropriate benchmarks against which to track project progress and vendor performance. Failure to engage appropriate Subject Matter Experts during procurements. Failure to define and stabilize requirements. Under-estimation of complexity. Politics.

Reference links :

  1. Government finally ends e-Borders programme
  2. ‘Exporting the border’? An inspection of e-Borders
  3. Home Office ordered to pay £224m to e-Borders firm
  4. Government IT projects fail because of politicians, not programmers
  5. Vaz slams e-Borders ‘catastrophe’