back to article Confidence in £70m customs system has 'collapsed', warns Treasury Committee

Confidence in HMRC's £70m Customs Declaration Service, a computer system that HMRC itself describes as "business critical", has collapsed, the Treasury Select Committee warned today. The system is intended to replace the 25-year-old current system – known as Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (Chief). But in the …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    On 25 November, 2016, the project was rated "Green", meaning it was "successful" and "on time". But by 31 January, it was rated "Amber/red", meaning it faces "major risks" and "urgent action".

    Could that have anything to do with the IR35 changes?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Blame IR35?

      Yep and it couldn't happen to a nicer department (not) first.

      They could recind their IR35 crackdown if the cost of the failed system in customs revenue exceeds what they might most optimistly hope to rake in from contractors but they won't. A decision like that requires at least two working brain cells all of which HMRC seem to have flushed down the lavvy.

      Do we feel sorry for them (HMRC)?

      Like hell we do.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Blame IR35?

        You can be sure their reply to the Select Committee won't mention it. They've got enough brain cells left to realise that wouldn't be a good thing. The Committee will have to work that out for themselves.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good grief

    I remember working on CHIEF..... where did 25 years go! I remember what a mess BT made of it and now they look competent compared to the current lot!

  3. tiggity Silver badge

    Anything new?

    This was in the media in January (as your article mentions) - has anything much changed since the dodgy Jan rating (bar A50 trigger obv)?

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: Anything new?

      Yep, the code base is now 57,000 lines ...

    2. Buzzword

      Re: Anything new?

      Per the article, the only thing that's new is that the Treasury Select Committee finally got round to making a statement about it. They've asked for a reply by the 12th of April, so with any luck we'll hear more then.

      1. Buzzword

        Re: Anything new?

        Well it's the 12th of April today, no response from Tony Meggs, chief exec of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority. That doesn't bode well.

  4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oooh, two triggered liberal snowflakes!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Go and look at what CHIEF does and then come back and explain what that's got to do with ant-terrorism.

        The only possible link I can think of is that money wasted here can't be spent elsewhere.......

    2. Kane Silver badge
      Boffin

      Dear Anonymous Coward,

      Fuck off.

      Yours,

      Me

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Dear Freedom Fighters of Islam,

      Now that you have spread fear, despondancy, panic and generally screwed things up in your bit of the middle east. We would just like to say

      Anything you can do we can do better, we can screw anything up better than you....

      yes we can, yes we can yes we can ....

  5. smudge Silver badge
    Holmes

    Requirements?

    The CDS is needed in order to handle a possible five-fold increase in declarations that could occur when the UK leaves the EU.

    I'd like to assume that this has been included in the requirements, either as a requirement for the appropriate capacity, or as a requirement for scalability up to that capacity. But I'm not optimistic.

    And, of course, if the requirements were specified before the Brexit vote, then there is going to be the mother of all change requests....

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Requirements?

      Quote

      then there is going to be the mother of all change requests

      which will cost at least twice the original budget and take 3-5 years to implement in India.

      Abandon hope etc

      1. 's water music Silver badge

        Re: Requirements?

        which will cost at least twice the original budget and take 3-5 years to implement in India.

        Twice the price for 5x capacity scaling? Are you drunk? The only possible way the increase could be low-balled like that would be if the contractor thinks that that will push the date (at which the government realises that it is cheaper to write off the entire project than to continue) far enough out that they will be able to invoice more in total

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Requirements?

      "And, of course, if the requirements were specified before the Brexit vote, then there is going to be the mother of all change requests."

      Brexit makes all problems like that disappear. Brexit is wonderful. Bexit scales. Brexit is magical. No, no problems at all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Requirements?

        For a government who can simply "re-invent the economy" it should be no trouble at all......

      2. Kane Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Requirements?

        "Brexit makes all problems like that disappear. Brexit is wonderful. Bexit scales. Brexit is magical."

        You forgot, "Brexit means Brexit".

      3. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Requirements?

        Brexit makes all problems like that disappear. Brexit is wonderful. Bexit scales. Brexit is magical.

        I'm still waiting for my sodding unicorn. If they can't even get that right then no wonder Customs is going to get fucked.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Brexit is wonderful

        75% of the population outside Islington would agree with you.

        1. H in The Hague Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Brexit is wonderful

          "75% of the population outside Islington would agree with you."

          Possibly. Slight problem - it's the folk in Islington, etc. who pay the taxes which support the rest of the country. (Note for non-UK readers: in the UK most of the income tax comes from a relatively small group of higher earners. Folk in London pay about twice as much income tax per capita as the national average.) So if you hurt the economy of Islington that's going to significantly reduce tax revenues, i.e. less money for the NHS, economically weaker areas, social care, etc. Not sure that "taking back control" was about that.

          Almost beer o'clock - have a good weekend.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Brexit is wonderful

            No, its the folks in islington who get 75% of the tax other people pay.

            I know because my nephew lives there with his public sector wife, and his public sector mother in law and his public sector father in law.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Brexit is wonderful

          "75% of the population outside Islington would agree with you."

          There was an article in our local paper a few weeks ago suggesting that about 10% of voters (Leave voters was sort of implied) had changed their minds. Given that there's been so much more discussion in the media since the referendum as to what the outcome might be I suspect that if you ran it again there'd be a Remain majority even outside Islington.

          Of course Islington, just to be contrary, might vole Leave.

          1. cork.dom@gmail.com

            Re: Brexit is wonderful

            Oh i think it would go the complete opposite way to how you imagine. I personally believe if the referendum was re-run more people would vote leave than previously.

            The reason i think this is because every single prediction that 'Project Fear' predicted has proved to be hopelessly incorrect. In fact the opposite has happened. Everything is looking very rosy indeed at the moment for the UK economy, not so good for the EU economy.

            However, the echo chamber of the Register would agree with you. Most commentards on here think Brexit is a very bad thing. Do you ALL live in London (the only place in England that is pro-EU)?

    3. LDS Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Requirements?

      Nothing to worry - the Brexit will also mean far less goods using Britain as an entry point for the the EU area, less work for the customs - and ports, transports, etc. etc.

    4. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Requirements?

      >The CDS is needed in order to handle a possible five-fold increase in declarations that could occur when the UK leaves the EU.

      Or you could, you know, not bother with recording the transactions, just as we do at the moment, at least, if it will cause the system to fail.

      I'd like to think someone didn't design a system that was only vertically scalable. I see duties as a reconciliation system, nowhere near as difficult as a telco payg system. Record the transaction locally, update the central system. I'll bet they didn't do that. It seems no-one can resist doing a single database updated by everyone in real-time these days.

      So the GBP 70m project is in difficulty. I wonder how much of the GPB 140m they are going to gain from IR35 is going to get blown on trying to fix the damage the measure causes?

  6. SW

    You'll be needing us old ones then.

    When the new system goes completely TITSUP and CHIEF rolls over and plays dead as well, you'll be needing those of us who remember the old manual declaration days.

    Anyone got a manual typewriter and a stack of SADs (C88) forms available...?

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: You'll be needing us old ones then.

      I think I may have some BAOR forms laying around, any good to you?

  7. toffer99

    Well they won't have to worry about Gibraltar travellers. We're about to lose it to Spain.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Well they won't have to worry about Gibraltar travellers. We're about to lose it to Spain."

      Time to revive an old idea of mine from pre-EEC membership days: until Spain stops claiming it, all tourist flights from UK to Spain are banned; you can fly to Gib because it's a British overseas territory and take surface transport to Spanish reports.

      1. RealBigAl

        I'm sure you've got a clever way of circumnavigating Spanish airspace?

        1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

          Routing...

          Could you not go via New York, Paramaribo and then Dakar for fun - and then sneak into Gib under the radar from the South? Providing you made a (not completely or totally airsafe) sharp turn to Port or Starboard at that bit near where the big rock and ground happens right at the end of the flight?

          Or a VTOL equipped 767 might be able to avoid the turny bit at the end also.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "I'm sure you've got a clever way of circumnavigating Spanish airspace?"

          Fly over France. There must be a few days in the year when their Air Traffic Controllers aren't on strike.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Hmm, doesn't Spain own our air traffic control and at least one of our biggest high street banks......

        Give it a try and see where it gets you.......

        1. P. Lee Silver badge

          >Hmm, doesn't Spain own our air traffic control and at least one of our biggest high street banks......

          >Give it a try and see where it gets you.......

          Well, if they don't play ball, you nationalise it.

          1. P. Lee Silver badge
            Trollface

            Troll icon added :)

      3. creepy gecko
        Coat

        "you can fly to Gib because it's a British overseas territory and take surface transport to Spanish reports."

        Possibly time to invest in a Gib-based coach company?

        1. tiggity Silver badge

          You could invest in this one, but people might not take you seriously when you tell them its name

          http://www.parodytours.com

          (Genuine, Gib coach company)

  8. tedleaf

    Look,the problem of Gibraltar is simple,we have sold of loads of other bits of the UK or its services,so let's just do the same with gib,open auction,who ever pays the most gets themselves a problem island,or their own tax haven...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      More the other way around. Spain should be selling its territory to reduce its national debt.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Just a pity the UK's in no position to buy any of it...

    2. serendipity

      HaHa, except Gib isn't an island!

    3. cork.dom@gmail.com

      You say : "Problem Island"

      UK Government says : "Massively strategically important military base as it controls access to the entire Mediterranean sea"

      I say "Check out Google maps if you think it's an Island".

  9. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Early warning?

    Why didn't that clever Mr Farage warn us about this last June?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Early warning?

      At a photo op. He was too busy posing Syrian refugees so they'd look like a queue of Turkish migrants coming over here to run our kebab shops and open a few restaurants. Somehow it also slipped his mind to mention that no-one in either group has much hope of getting a work visa let alone the right to freedom of movement, but in his defence he was really busy spreading lies that month.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Early warning?

        "but in his defence he was really busy spreading lies that month."

        Which month were you thinking of?

    2. serendipity

      Re: Early warning?

      No need, anybody with half a brain knows the Spanish have been after Gib for years. But they should be careful, they've got their own 'Gibs' in Morroco, Ceuta and Melilla. And the Canary islands aren't exactly off the coast of Spain are they! And then there's the Basque region as well which would like autonomy. This could be a can of worms they regret opening! And I like the Spanish generally, but on this I don't agree with them.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Early warning?

        "No need, anybody with half a brain knows the Spanish have been after Gib for years."

        And anyway, the last time the people of Gib took a vote on the matter, they were overwhelmingly (in statistical terms, not 51% government overwhelming mandate terms) in favour of remaining part of the UK. On the other hand, they also voted in the Brexit referendum overwhelmingly to stay in the EU.

        This puts them in a bit of a quandary. They are too small to go independent, want to be in the EU and want to be part of the UK and being part of Spain is, I suspect, the last thing they want considering the Spanish economy.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Early warning?

          "want to be part of the UK"

          Whatever that might be in a couple of years time. OTOH they could link up with Scotland.

    3. Ilmarinen
      FAIL

      Re: Early warning?

      "Why didn't that clever Mr Farage warn us about this last June?"

      My guess is because he's not that clever, or maybe just in a bubble of yesmen, as May appears to be. Impervious to fact that doesn't fit their narrative.

      Richard North (eureferendum.com) has been warning since before this lot even knew what Art 50 woz.

      May et al were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off - instead we look set for customs gridlock as we suddenly become a "Third Country" - by our own volition. They have ruled out the only safe transition path, via continued EEA single market participation in EFTA so we will be more than a bit stuffed.

      It's been said that civilization is only 3 meal-less days away from riot. I'd prefer not to test this, but as it looks like we will be I'll be stockpiling dried goods and hoping not to get shot for hoarding...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amber Rudd

    I thought Amber/Red was Amber Rudd for a minute.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blame management

    They'll have ignored all the people below them suggesting how the system should work. Instead they'll have a "digital consultant" selling them bollocks. A company will come in do create the application for them despite them having their own department that could do it. The company will be paid handsomely but deliver nothing before disappearing. Management will continue to have more pointless meetings and continue to ignore the people that work there and actually do the job.

    Same in most local government departments.

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