The Cabinet Office is working on a new IT system for national security vetting, following the failure of an upgrade implemented two years ago.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has reported on the plan in its Investigation into national security vetting for the Ministry of Defence, saying that work on a new National Security Vetting Solution (NSVS) began in May and is scheduled for delivery by January 2020.
It identifies the shortcomings in the existing system, launched in in October 2016 at a cost of £14 million, as a major factor in the long delays in dealing with vetting applications. In its early days there were severe problems with its essential functions and it failed to store information and run automated checks correctly.
At one point 8,500 files containing personal data attached to cases were unreadable, and while the files were recovered they had to be manually reattached. Also, 93% of automated checks against the Police National Computer failed.
The full roll out of the system was not completed until November 2017, against an original target of January, and it was not possible to fully report on its performance until April of this year.
By January, government departments were complaining about delays in getting individuals vetted, and by July there were still approximately 25,600 open cases.
The NAO adds that the UK Security Vetting Programme Board had said the introduction of a single IT system was a major risk and that it considered the project to be under-resources, under-planned and underfunded.
The Cabinet Office has now decided that NSVS is still not working fast enough and has caused inefficiencies costing £17 million a year. Hence its decision to begin work on a replacement.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “Considering the pressures facing government, the last thing we need is a non-functioning vetting system. An effective system needs to be put in place urgently to ensure the Government is able to use its staff effectively, giving them access to the right information, locations and equipment.”
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