Book News: November 1st, 1999

Report by the Comptroller and Auditor GeneralDelays in issuing passports earlier this year led to much anxiety and inconvenience for members of the public hoping to travel. By June, the Passport Agency had around 565,000 applications awaiting processing. The initial cause of delay was the introduction from October 1998 of a new passport processing system to replace an ageing computer system. Siemens Business Services is responsible for providing the new system.

The causes of delay included inadequate staff training time, insufficient contingency planning and a failure to get the message across to the public.

The cost of the additional measures taken by the Agency to deal with the failures during the year from October 1998 will be around £12.6 million, including £6 million for additional staffing.

Almost 500 travel dates were missed over the period and many more people were inconvenienced. Whilst the Agency’s performance over the Summer was at or around its target of meeting 99.99 per cent of travel dates, the Home Office accepts that this target did not reflect a meaningful standard of service for the public.

The Agency has received compensation totalling £69,000 from Siemens for shortfalls in performance and has waived other compensation amounting to £275,000. The Agency is now discussing with Siemens how the costs of the crisis are to be shared.

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