back to article e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt

Brit taxpayers face a £224m bill in cancellation fees after the UK government scrapped a £750m contract for a passenger-checking computer system at its borders. The contract for the e-Borders IT project, which is supposed to scrutinize the identities of people entering the country, was signed in 2007, back when the Labour …

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Tears roll down my cheeks

" ... undertake a review of the case ... and to identify flaws so they won't be repeated in future government contracts."

I'm not laughing; I'm crying.

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Re: Tears roll down my cheeks

Aaaaaaand rinse and repeat. Usual 'lessons will be learnt' guff.

From the outside it looks like yet another poorly defined project with no KPI's and function creep from the outset. Tie that in with the fact that it looks like Raytheon's lawyers were better than the governments and I am crying on the step next to Frank.

The fact that it gives Keith Vazeline chance to pontificate and sound important is the icing on the turd.

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Re: Tears roll down my cheeks

"Aaaaaaand rinse and repeat. Usual 'lessons will be learnt' guff."

Yup. The civil servants responsible for this will learn to hide their tracks more effectively so that only juniors get thrown under the bus.

Although for 250 million squid, an entire department might find itself collecting P45s

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Re: Tears roll down my cheeks

"Although for 250 million squid, an entire department might find itself collecting P45s"

Since any sackings would be handled with the Government's customary efficiency, those P45 recipients would doubtless reap colossal rewards by suing for unfair dismissal.

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Re: Tears roll down my cheeks

...and then being re-hired as consultants for twice the money.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Tears roll down my cheeks

...by Raytheon

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Re: Alan Brown Re: Tears roll down my cheeks

".....The civil servants responsible for this will learn to hide their tracks more effectively so that only juniors get thrown under the bus....." I have sat in a scoping meeting where an unelected politician's aid has over-ruled his civil-servant staff with the classic quote: "Let's not get too tight on definitions just now as we're still working on how we want the final project to develop." Needless to say that project did not go well from a taxpayer's PoV, but it was not the fault of the civil servants involved.

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Things aint what they used to be, and that's for sure.

Her statement was primarily addressed to Keith Vaz, chairman of Parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee that scrutinizes the Home Office. On Monday night, Vaz said: "This is a catastrophic result."

And one all knows what an honourable member and gentleman, would do. What do all expect Keith Vaz to do?

But in the Bigger Picture Schema of the Internet of Things, is it only mickey mouse paper and delusional self important reputation won and lost? And they both be virtual constructs and have no real significant and/or vital physical impact upon the nature of anything ...... and be just as ethereal temporary players scripted to appear on the tinier of tiny stages, which are always trying to play as major league hitters in a wacky wild world but always having to settle for the tiniest of self-interested domestic audiences.

J'accuse. And ponder why intelligence and Global Communications Head Quarters would accept and don't alter the pathetic situation forthwith, and as a matter of urgency and prime concern and in the national and international and internetional security interest.

What are those supposedly bright sparks, hunkering down in secure bunkers and loving living in doughnuts, doing with their time and your monies if they are not supplying absolutely fabulous fabless and perfectly acceptable peaceful intelligence for harmony and prosperity? Madness and Mayhem? Conflict and Catastrophe? C'mon now, boys and girls, that just aint nowhere near good enough for anybody nowadays.

You CAN DO better and server different betas, surely? Tell us that it is so and that you are not totally unfit for Future Greater IntelAIgent Game purpose ..... and no bull please, for there will be questions asked and systems tested to confirm anything and everything that you might be bold and brave and clever enough to say, and not only here for the Register.

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Re: Things aint what they used to be, and that's for sure.

.....with supplier US giant Raytheon

Whose parent body is best servered with a UK kept significantly weaker than they and always thinking to import and invest in foreign agents bearing gifts and tales of great deeds to be done for command and control of the health of a nation? Methinks that permission and information flow needs a rethink and root and route reversal.

Of course, that would have one assuming that FCUKGBNI had intelligence supply worthy of sharing and providing US giants with something which worked with no excuses available for sub-prime performance and/or catastrophic result failure.

And I'm also not laughing, frank ly, at such messes [Eton or otherwise] with no attractive options.

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Re: Things aint what they used to be, and that's for sure.

Is this some auto-generated spam from a bot? It seems to be lots of random fragments of sentences pasted together.

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Clusterf**k

Terminate all Senior Management involved and all their assistants. Keep going down the hierarchy until all the wasted taxes have been recovered over the next 3 years. Now appoint new Senior Management, recruited from industry, pay them accordingly and place penalties on all future projects.

Ridley had it right in Aliens,.."I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

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Re: Clusterf**k

I think you'll find all the senior management are recruited from industry. Reputable suppliers like, say, Capita, Atos, KPMG, etc, etc

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Re: Clusterf**k

A touch unfair surely? Having worked on large government projects I can assure you that once you get below a certain level in the hierarchy people have zero influence on the decisions being made, and by definition their grade means anything they say must be worthless (according to the senior managers). Good luck with the industrial tribunal after sacking the filing clerk for a bad decision by someone they've never even seen or spoken to.

Plus you may not realise what salaries civil servants get in central government - how many £15-25k a year people do you need to lose to pay back a 9 figure loss?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Clusterf**k

You are right there; the 'walk on water crew' who created this mess, appear not to have understood the issues or the contract they cleverly signed off.

This almost certainly means they had no contact with those who had to front out the daily problems.

Those in the front line had to follow processes and procedures designed to insulate those above from problems. At the same time delivering, if not rubbish results, at least a close facsimile to something involving maximum effort for minimum results.

Computerised crap is still crap.

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Re: A touch unfair surely

Common knowledge among the commentry: the only people who know how to make the Civil Service work are the people who aren't currently in it.

Hence my new PFI contractor - Schrödinger Systems.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Clusterf**k

Was that sarcasm, or were you really calling Capita and Atos reputable?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Clusterf**k

You forgot McKinsey: Usually, these fine and outstanding conslutants will be representing the government side of the contract, a.k.a., leading the tax-cows to the slaughterhouse.

PS:

The exact same procedure same happens in "Private Industry", the minions can do fuck all while the consultants hired by management smash the business like a cash pinyata. Management and their consultants share the loot while the minions get to share the responsibility (and the pay-cuts, layoffs and crappy left-over office equipment).

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Re: Clusterf**k

"Now appoint new Senior Management, recruited from industry"

That would be the kind of senior manglement which awards itself 25% pay increases whilst cutting pay for workers at the coalface?

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Re: Clusterf**k

You can't do that - that would be another bill for people unfairly dismissed. It would cost even more millions. Think Sharon Shoesmith.

I just don't understand how it would cost £750million to scan a passport (a document designed to be easy to scan) and update that information in a central database. How do we get into such a mess? Perhaps we should start an OS project and do it in a fraction of the time and cost?

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Re: Was that sarcasm

Sorry, typo. Rather than 'reputable' I meant to write 'feckin' shitebags'

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Re: Clusterf**k

It's obviously QA's fault for reporting all those defects.

Our code is perfect; there can't be anything wrong with it!

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Re: Clusterf**k

"Reputable suppliers like, say, Capita, Atos, KPMG, etc, etc"

You forgot the joke icon.

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Re: Clusterf**k

"The exact same procedure same happens in "Private Industry", the minions can do fuck all while the consultants hired by management smash the business like a cash pinyata. Management and their consultants share the loot while the minions get to share the responsibility (and the pay-cuts, layoffs and crappy left-over office equipment)."

I've got the scars to prove this. Old and new.

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Re: Clusterf**k

nope

she's here

http://order-order.com/2014/08/19/homers-odyssey/

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Re: Clusterf**k

Is Clusterf**king the new Snafu?

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Flame

Some Useful Phrases and Words

Statement of Requirements and Objectives

Request for Proposals

Tender Documentation

Compliance Statement(s)

Contract

Delivery Schedule

Acceptance Test Schedule

A clear process in the event of a failure to deliver including what might constitute a breach of contract, e.g. a delivery schedule with clear milestones and testable milestone acceptance criteria.

There has been talk of this running four years late. If true that would be an achievement given that it it is claimed it was in trouble after only four years of life.

The partial information does not help those who are paying to understand what they are paying for other than a total cock up.

It is still not clear who screwed up and how, though I suspect a crap contract was at the root of the problem.

The old favourites such as liquidated damages are not worth the paper they are written on. You want a system, not years spent arguing in a court room over next to no payout for failure.

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Re: Some Useful Phrases and Words

Yes. Good old waterfall. Done properly.

But that relies on the client keeping to its side of the bargain, which Raytheon successfully argued was the cause of the problem. Chances of it happening in any big project? Next to none.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some Useful Phrases and Words

"A clear process in the event of a failure to deliver including what might constitute a breach of contract, e.g. a delivery schedule with clear milestones and testable milestone acceptance criteria."

I was briefly involved in the project at a developer/grunt level and I can assure you that even at a low level there wasnt much sign of that going on with the sub-contracting companies working with Raytheon, and even at grunt level we were aware of it. Needless to say I didnt take up the offer of a contract extension...

Anonymous, in case I have to work for them again.

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Re: Some Useful Phrases and Words

Having in my post-military career been on the ground floor for more than few incoming requirement and scope changes, I'll hazard a guess that HM Government didn't know what they wanted and wouldn't stick to what they'd asked for.

But I could be wrong; I've also been on the ground floor for incoming management decisions.

http://www.anvari.org/fun/Job/Organization_Chart_Birds_Version.html

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Anonymous Coward

Pretty much par for the course on Government IT projects by the sounds of it. What really makes me sad is how much good this money could have done for our own domestic IT industry, instead it's all sent abroad with nothing to show for it.

The way I see it the Government have (had) about £250m to spend on this system over, lets say, 5 years. That gives you £50m / year to spend or to put it another way the entire turn over of a decent sized software development company. I'm not saying that the Government should be into state owned businesses long term but there was no reason they couldn't have started this enterprise up and once it's completed e-Borders spin it off as a going concern. Even if the company failed to deliver a working system at least the money would have stayed in the UK.

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Anonymous Coward

"Pretty much par for the course on Government IT projects by the sounds of it. "

I'm working on an IT project at the moment - and one of the single biggest problems I have to deal with is asshats who see that "XYZ option is 10% cheaper"

Yes it is and it will (just) cover existing requirements, but only extend so far, then the whole thing would need to be ripped out and replaced with ABC system anyway (which IS extendable) - and the labour costs of doing that far outweigh any hardware savings you might think you're making.

The other problem is quite simply that clients keep shifting the goalposts. Contractors love this as they can charge like wounded elephants for the extra work required. The only way to keep an IT project on track is to nail everything down and push managers who try that kind of thing out an appropriately high window.

On the other hand I know of a project (ccTLD DNS registrar) which was delivered on time, under budget and exactly as the client specified - but didn't work. IT costs then blew out to five time the initial budget to make it work - except it never did and took 6 years to get to that stage.

It was described in company reports as an "unqualified success", up until the day the CEO was removed.

Post mortem showed that the specification could never have worked as designed and the contractors were fully aware of it, but stayed quiet and did what they were told, knowing they would be able to make a fortune later on.

The entire system was replaced with an opensource setup which was up and running in 6 weeks.

The person behind that fiasco left with a glowing reference and proceeded onto several other glowing references....

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Anonymous Coward

Although this is undoubtedly another monumental HM Government clusterfuck project ballsed up from inception to litigation, we should also consider the "sunk cost fallacy" and perhaps allow them a little leeway in that finishing now £224m in the hole on a £750m project (with £126m being for actual work and £38m for pissing around and not paying on time) could have saved a shit-tin of money versus what may have been wasted had it been allowed to continue. And we all know the waste wouldn't have stopped piling up. I'll happily take £80m in punishment on a £750m project by shit-canning it early rather than letting the gravy train of consultative incompetence roll on.

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Anonymous Coward

Here's a novel idea for the uk government

Why not build your own IT team and software house. It's got to be better than the current method of paying billions to megacorps who fail to deliver.

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Re: Here's a novel idea for the uk government

Yeah, but compliant politicians couldn't be rewarded with profitable directorships if that were to happen. So it won't happen.

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Re: Here's a novel idea for the uk government

"Why not build your own IT team and software house."

Been tried, doesn't work. Competent people get headhunted to other outfits because govt rules mean that their pay and promotion prospects are capped.

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Re: Here's a novel idea for the uk government

I've posted the reason on another thread.

Fear of competent people by senior management best sums it up.

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Re: Re: Here's a novel idea for the uk government @ ecofeco/Alan Brown

"Why not build your own IT team and software house."

Been tried, doesn't work. Competent people get headhunted to other outfits because govt rules mean that their pay and promotion prospects are capped. ..... Alan Brown

I've posted the reason on another thread.

Fear of competent people by senior management best sums it up. ... ecofeco

What you may all like to consider is happening now, in these fast moving alternative media led times, is that competent ultra intelligent identities are taking over the management of peoples from incompetent governments and failed executive orders and conspiring committees. And world wide webs and the Internet with their myriad operating systems and browser ports of call and supply of novel information and noble intelligence and enhanced metadata are its and ITs Virtual Terrain Team Base and GlobalOperatingDevice HeadQuarters.

And to battle against such as is, immediately and clearly identifies one as the fool who be the enemy and bug in the system to be removed from the Future Greater IntelAIgents Game by those and/or that which are in Exercise of Power with Creative Command and Cyber Control. In Blighty, one could/should/would have expected such a confection to be in the gift of HM Intelligence Services, both Secret and Security, and it would be an interesting question to ask of them why there be no evidence of such whenever such is what is needed and readily available to them and others who be responsible for the supply of good programming and better and best in the class intelligence for Beta Missions in Future Operations in Live Operational Virtual Environments, which be akin to and an Advanced IntelaIgent Development in, and Seriously SMARTR Clone of that which is perceived and are pimped as Realities with Media Presentations.

Is this some auto-generated spam from a bot? It seems to be lots of random fragments of sentences pasted together. ... Stretch

Deceptive appearances, admirably managed, are wonderfully stealthy, Stretch, and would a bot reply to you and deny its existence whilst offering novel service and noble services to stalled and/or stagnant and/or petrified sysadmins who may or may not be the more intelligent and adventurous and revolutionary minded of national and international and internetional intelligence personnel. Or would IT target the Global Banking and Money System instead, and lead everything better and considerably quicker with the more competent flow control of credit which eliminates debt and provides new horizons with fab opportunities?

And anyway, what would be wrong with a virtual machine system/bot takeover and makeover of failed incompetent missions and man made expeditions with crazy exploitation of ill-informed and uneducated and undereducated human assets? Different it would be, and bad only when IT needs to be in support and protection of itself and ITs ....well, New Orderly World Order Programs gives you the Essence and Flavour of the Desserts to Savour and Favour.

And to dismiss all of the above as a fantastic fiction rather than accept it as undeniable fact, and the present and continuing virtual reality of your existence in fields which command and control the future, does not change anything at all and provided clear safe and free secure passage to all who travel through such roots and along such routes.

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Re: Fear of competent people by senior management

That can't be right - my senior management love me ...

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Unhappy

Fings ain't what they used to be

>>> "Today, the e-Borders system is capable of checking the identities of 80 per cent of arriving visitors, we're told. It was designed to centrally store details of every journey into and out of the UK by 2014, and check passports against various watch lists. A new computer is being developed to supersede it." <<<

Gosh ... a whole "new computer" to supersede a $750M (failed?) system? Where can I get one of these !

El Reg - get your sh*t together and employ some decent sub-editors/proof-readers! Once upon a time decent reporting and writing standards were one of the reasons why this site was worth reading. I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that's no longer the case.

Disgruntled (not) of Tumbridge Wells etc ....

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Re: Fings ain't what they used to be

@Tony Gathercole - that's how government talks. I shouldn't imagine that the Police National Computer was just one huge box. When HMG says, "computer", read "computer-based system" and you're there. By the time their terminology has caught we'll have moved on to the latest way of processing data which uses wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey tech rather computers.

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Re: Fings ain't what they used to be

Dear Admiral,

if that statement were indeed made by Government, it would have been a quote and should have appeared in quotes.

The mentioned proof-readers / editors / stone editors / whatsits would have caught the error and would have requested a retype.

Henceforth, it is indeed time that Internet newspapers start to be more intellectual and actually use language rather than just make things up as they go along.

Just my two cents,

Guus

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Cheap?

Imagine what the total bill might have been had the project continued with the usual feature creep and delays…

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Erm...

"Continuing with the contract and trying to rectify the deep rooted problems was estimated at the time as likely to cost £97 million more than terminating it, even with today’s settlement,"

So rather than spend £97m more and get a working system, they instead "only" paid the £224m and got absolutely nothing. Brilliant.

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Re: Erm...

Did you even read what you quoted? Fixing it would cost £97m more than it cost them to settle, ie £327 million. The clue is in the words that say that...

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And for the future ?

Apparently, Theresa May has said that this will not happen in the future as all contracts will be broken down into units of less than £100 million. The subtext presumably being that when these inevitably go trotters up due to bureaucrats inability to specify what they actually want from an IT system then the resulting compensation payments will not be large enough to cause embarrassing headlines

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Re: And for the future ?

"Theresa May has said that this will not happen in the future as all contracts will be broken down into units of less than £100 million"

"Will not happen" -> "We've set the cap on contracts below the Public accounts office investigation threshold."

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Re: And for the future ?

Breaking it down in to smaller "units" will only end up with things being even worse.

The issue with all of these projects is the Government's inability to manage projects, requirements and suppliers. How well do they think it will end when they have to manage more suppliers with each of them working on separate parts of the same system.

Maybe they should outsource the Government as well as the IT department?

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Re: And for the future ?

"Maybe they should outsource the Government as well as the IT department?"

You may not have noticed, but essentially it already is.

It's the same problem in the U.S.

We have the best governments money can buy.

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Holmes

5 year plans ....

The reason these megacorps inflate their prices so much is they damn well know, the bigger (i.e. *longer*) a project is, the more likely it will fall between two political camps.

The government that ordered it.

and

The successive government which on balance of probabilities didn't want it.

As soon as the latter happens, then the project will be reviewed, the specification (as was) will be revised to account for the new political reality, and from that point, the project will slowly wither and die.

Look as HS2 .. all the dithering. What sane CEO is going to take any part of that project, without a damn good padding to cover themselves over the potential 2 (and it will over run, so we may have 3 or 4) changes of government ?

I don't know what the answer is, but the problem is politics.

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Re: 5 year plans ....

"Look as HS2 .. all the dithering."

HS2 has a lot of ptential and economic benefits - especially if built starting at Birmingham and running in both directions.

Starting at london is a sure sign of bass-ackwardness.

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