The establishment of the Performance and Compliance Unit (PCU) has the potential to deliver an effective audit and assurance mechanism of immigration functions for the Home Office. However, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration said a further inspection, commissioned by the Home Secretary, will assess whether the PCU will effectively achieve its aims.
These were the findings in the Independent Chief Inspector’s report, published today (7 May 2013), looking at the establishment of the Home Office’s Performance and Compliance Unit. The investigation was commissioned by the Home Secretary following the publication of the Chief Inspector’s report into the work of the Case Assurance and Audit Unit (CAAU) , when the Home Secretary expressed concern about the reliability of the information on legacy cases that had been provided by the now defunct UK Border Agency.
The Chief Inspector found that:
• the creation of the PCU reflected a desire on the part of the then UKBA Chief Executive to break down the culture of silo working that had existed in certain parts of the Agency and to ensure that the Agency Board had an accurate set of management information covering all aspects of its work;
• robust processes were being put in place to check the accuracy of reports produced on issues such as removals performance and legacy cases;
• PCU were playing an independent role in checking and verifying data produced by staff in the Agency’s operational units;
• the Chief Executive was encouraging staff to be open in reporting on all aspects of performance.
However, the Chief Inspector suggested that:
• there should be an overarching plan for the establishment of the new Unit setting out what it would achieve and by when;
• key individuals at a very senior level within the Home Office should have a clearer understanding of what PCU was expected to achieve;
• there should be clarity between PCU’s role and that of the Home Office’s Internal Audit unit, as well as a new team that had been established to undertake internal inspections of immigration functions;
• the Home Office needed to clarify what it expects in terms of performance reporting and communicate that to all Agency staff now working directly for the Home Office
The Chief Inspector also noted that the quality of reports produced by the PCU depended on the accuracy of the data from which they were drawn. Data must be correctly recorded by staff and quality assured by managers, and all correspondence and new cases should be logged on the Home Office databases. This is a challenge that the Home Office must address, and the Chief Inspector found a project was in hand to improve data quality across the former UK Border Agency.
The Chief Inspector also commented that the broad remit of the PCU, which includes responsibility for business planning and governance, has the potential to distract it from its core performance and compliance functions. This is an aspect of the PCU’s work that he will examine in his follow up inspection of the unit later this year.
The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, John Vine CBE QPM, said:
“The accuracy and reliability of performance data is critical to providing the correct level of assurance of immigration functions for Ministers, the Home Office Board and the Permanent Secretary. This takes on even more importance following the Home Secretary’s decision to abolish the Agency and split its functions between two new Home Office directorates, as there will be a need for consistency in the way both record, quality assure and share data with each other as well as the PCU.
I was satisfied, on the basis of my investigation, that the PCU had the potential to deliver an effective audit mechanism of immigration functions and the correct level of assurance on the performance of these functions.
There were a number of areas, however, where I considered that additional steps should be taken to help the PCU deliver its objectives. I have therefore made four recommendations for improvement.
The Home Secretary has commissioned a follow-up inspection later this year which will assess if the PCU is delivering against the potential it has shown.”
A PDF copy of the report can be downloaded here.