Tuesday 16 July 2013

IPS temporarily Rapsonless

The Identity & Passport Service (IPS) doesn't exist any more, of course, it's now HM Passport Office (HMPO) and the Home Office is IPSless.

The executive director of IPS between about June 2010 and March 2013 was Sarah Rapson. Her predecessor, James Hall, presided over the British public being over-charged for passports by about £300 million a year. He also presided over the disaster of Whitehall's attempted introduction of state-produced ID cards.

Ms Rapson has delivered a £5 reduction in the cost of a 10-year adult passport since then, from £77.50 to £72.50. Otherwise her tenure seems to have been without incident.

She is perhaps lucky that IPS/HMPO were banned from having anything to do with Whitehall's latest attempt to re-enact the ID cards massacre – that honour goes to the Cabinet Office (individual electoral registration and the Identity Assurance Programme) and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (midata). If you hold futures in either organisation, sell, sell, sell.

Now her luck has broken.

Home Office press release, 16 April 2013:
New interim Directors General appointed

Two interim Directors General have been appointed to lead the new immigration commands in the Home Office that were announced by the Home Secretary on 26 March.

Sarah Rapson will lead UK Visas and Immigration, bringing her experience of managing a successful customer-focused organisation as Chief Executive of the Identity and Passport Service.

David Wood will lead Immigration Enforcement, drawing on his background with the Metropolitan Police and as Director of Operations for UKBA ...
The history of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) is spectacular and its demise under Rob Whiteman even more so. The Home Office is now UKBAless. It's shattered into three pieces – the UK Border Force, Immigration Enforcement (ambiguous name) and the piece Ms Rapson has picked up, UK Visas and Immigration (UKV&I).

Interim Director General Sarah Rapson gave evidence in front of the Home Affairs Committee on 11 June 2013:

Next day, the Times newspaper reported the session and found themselves with an over-abundance or superfluity or excess or nimiety of scoops. Too many to handle. They settled for Visa system might never be up to job, admits chief.

A month later, the Home Affairs Committee published their report, and they went with Backlogs hit half a million at immigration service. This followed Ms Rapson's revelation that there are 190,000 unresolved immigration cases that her predecessors unfortunately forgot to tell the Committee about.

The Times and the Committee and the BBC could equally well have led with Ms Rapson's management approach – she wants her staff to discover for themselves how to do the job, she doesn't intend to issue "decrees" (16:34:40 to 16:35:44), instead, she's holding "workshops". She has 7,400 staff in 150 countries and an annual budget of £450 million. There's something missing from the concept of leadership there or "command" as Ms Rapson keeps calling it.

Or they could have led with Ms Rapson's repeated claim to have only just started in the job – e.g. "I'm 54 days in" (16:59:43). According to the DMossEsq slide rule, that's nearly eight weeks. Eight weeks in, and she still doesn't know how many categories there are for the cases UKV&I deal with and didn't realise that the category with 190,000 cases in it was new to the Committee. Clearly it takes some time for a new boss to get their feet under the table, but surely eight weeks is long enough to get to grips with some of the basic metrics of the business. If eight weeks isn't long enough, is it ever going to happen?

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