Innovation and changeGovernment TechnologyA quarter of key border-related IT issues irresolvable by Brexit D-day

A quarter of key border-related IT issues irresolvable by Brexit D-day

Systems at risk for D-Day as two out of the eight reported key responsible organisations are either in red, or amber-red in IT readiness

The UK border: preparedness for EU exit, a report by the National Audit Officeprovides updates on the readiness of the government departments on the modifications that would be imperative at the border after EU exit to the public accounts committee on 27 February 2019. February release is an update on developments on concerns outlined in the October 2018 report.

The publication highlights that the rating for two out of the eight reported key responsible organisations are either in red, or amber-red in IT readiness. A rating of red signifies that the on-track delivery appears to be out of reach whereas a rating of amber-red indicates that successful delivery is in doubt with major risks or issues.

The report observes major issues that do not appear to be manageable or resolvable. Keeping the timing of the assessment, the report suggests that urgent action is needed to ensure the highlighted issues are addressed.

Taking the October 2018 release into consideration, Import of animals and animal products and high-risk food and feed not of animal origin – replacement for Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) continues to be in amber-red and Automatic Licence Verification System (ALVS) has turned into amber-red from amber.

The first project/programme will be using Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System (IPAFFS), a system that is being developed to monitor and control these imports from the European Union (EU) and rest-of-world countries. However, for some higher-risk imports from EU countries, it was decided not to use IPAFFS until late summer. Monitoring and tracking for these imports would be made manually for day one.

As far as the second project/programme mentioned above, ALVS is the bridge between Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) and TRACES, helping to communicate the outcomes of biosecurity and food safety checks to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). In January 2019, the Border Delivery Group (BDG) lowered its rating for ALVS from Amber to Amber-Red owing to Defra and HMRC still working out how to prepare for a failure of IPAFFS, and the implications for ALVS and CHIEF.

Preparedness for EU exit: Amber or amber-green ratings

The following projects/programmes and systems have been ranked as either amber or amber green:

  • IPAFFS Contingency: Online form-based contingency and possible use of Port Health Interactive Live Information System (PHILIS Online)
  • Pre-notification: Port Health Interactive Live Information System (PHILIS Online)
  • Tariff Application: Tariff Application Platform (TAP)
  • Transit
  • Roll-on, roll-off locations: RORO
  • Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight: CHIEF

This rank signifies that successful delivery appears to be feasible. Three of these are newly reported and the other three have shown progress in the ranking from October 2018 release.

The issues with these projects/programmes appear to be resolvable at this stage and, if addressed promptly, should not present a cost/schedule overrun. Successful delivery appears to be probable as of now, but not certain. Constant attention will be needed to ensure risks do not materialise into major issues threatening delivery.

Meg Hillier, the chair of the public accounts committee, said:“It is alarming that six of the eight critical IT systems needed are in danger of not being ready in time and that government assesses readiness of traders as one of its most significant risks.”

A government spokesperson said: “We have also taken steps to minimise disruption through phasing in certain checks required at the border and continuing to apply the risk-based approach to customs checks we use today.” Since only two entries in the report have been rated as green, this statement that the report showed real progress is questionable.

In October 2018, Thompson, HMRC chief, had said that HMRC needs 5,000 extra staff and an extra £450m will be needed by the HMRC if a no deal Brexit occurs.

In September 2018, the Cabinet Office had revealed plans for a new e-notification service for public sector contracts in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

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