This week the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, John Vine, published his report on whether the establishment of the UK Border Agency”s Performance and Compliance Unit (PCU) would deliver an effective audit mechanism and the correct level of assurance of the Agency for Ministers, the UKBA Board and the Home Office Permanent Secretary. The PCU was established to improve performance and compliance across the organisation, as well as to validate and assure all management information provided to external stakeholders.
The investigation was commissioned prior to the Home Secretary”s decision on 26 March 2013 to abolish the UKBA. In his report, the Chief Inspector makes reference to the UKBA when describing the situation at the time of his investigation and the Home Office when commenting on the future.
The Chief Inspector was satisfied that “The PCU had the potential to deliver an effective audit mechanism of the immigration functions and the correct level of assurance.” However, he also concluded that there was a lack of concrete plans setting out “how the desired outcomes would be achieved,” and he noted “a lack of structure around the creation of the PCU.” These are themes which we have heard before in reports on other areas of the UKBA”s operations and we will follow with interest the steps taken to redress these concerns.
We have summarised the Chief Inspector’s recommendations for improvements and the Home Office response below.
- The Home Office should produce a comprehensive plan, setting out the PCU”s strategic aims, objectives and outcomes with timescales for their delivery, and put in place an effective governance structure to oversee its implementation.
- Home Office Response: PCU has a detailed delivery plan for 2013-14, covering each area of responsibility. Additionally, the Chief Inspector should include inspection of PCU within his routine programme each year.
- All staff should be clear about the outcomes that the PCU is seeking to achieve and the role the Home Office expects them to play in supporting the new unit.
- Home Office Response: The Department has taken, and will continue to take steps, to create a culture where staff are clear about their responsibilities and the part they play in improving the performance and compliance of the Department.
- Data on immigration-related functions must be recorded correctly and consistently across the organisation and should be of the highest quality.
- Home Office Response: This is part of PCU”s core purpose and substantial work continues in this area. This includes on-going data cleansing work, being clearer and simpler about the data that is collected, using the structures of transparency and National Statistics publications to reinforce processes for quality assurance.
- The Home Office must distinguish the roles of the PCU, the Operational Assurance Team and the Internal Audit Unit, and communicate these to staff.
- Home Office Response: PCU and the Internal Audit Unit have clear, separate roles, based on the standard audit “three lines of defence” model. The Operational Assurance team has a wholly distinct role in helping areas prepare for inspection and other external scrutiny. These distinct roles are reflected in respective business plans.
For more information on this topic or to speak to one of our UK immigration team, please call us on +44(0)207 001 2121.