Tuesday, 17 April 2012

UKBA – what do the Board do for £1 million p.a.?

They're a busy lot on the Home Affairs Committee. On 11 April 2012, they published their 21st report since September 2010, Work of the UK Border Agency (August - December 2011).

No advance on their 17th report back in January, Inquiry into the provision of UK Border Controls, the Committee draw attention to the UK Border Agency's contemptuous lack of co-operation with parliament (para.79-81). Parliament is meant to be supreme. The Executive, in the form of UKBA, continues to behave as though it is supreme.

As with the 17th report, the Committee make the obvious point that the UK Border Agency is not an agency of the Home office at all, it is an integral part of the Home Office. The word "Agency" appears accordingly in inverted commas throughout the report.

The failings of UKBA do not stop at the Board of UKBA, they go to the top of the Home Office, to Dame Helen Ghosh, the permanent secretary. And they did not start with her, they go back to the incumbency of her predecessor, Sir David Normington.

The Committee expect not only the chief executive of UKBA to co-operate with them but also the permanent secretary (para.12, 37, 73). UKBA's failings are her failings as much as Rob Whiteman's.

And what are those failings?

The Committee list them under 23 headings in this report.

They start by listing the salaries of eight executive members of the UKBA Board, roughly £1 million per annum. £1 million should buy any organisation a lot of management and direction. Especially when, as in this case, it doesn't stop there, there is further input from the top levels of the Home Office.

In the event, with failings in 23 areas reported here, and more being signalled for upcoming Committee enquiries, the expected management and direction are not being delivered.

John Vine, the Independent Chief Inspector of UKBA, made the point in his report on the Brodie Clark affair that (p.6):
There is nothing I have discovered which could not have been identified and addressed by senior managers exercising proper oversight.
The question arises, if they're not exercising proper oversight, what are Dame Helen and Rob Whiteman and the other senior civil servants doing?

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