The Home Office system to record and assess allegations concerning immigration and customs offences from the public provided clear benefits, but more needed to be done to ensure this intelligence was translated into effective operational action. These were the findings in the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration’s report into the Home Office’s Intelligence Management System (IMS).
The IMS is a Home Office database – introduced in September 2012 – used for recording and processing allegations concerning immigration or customs offences, and assessing their value in terms of combating these offences. These allegations may originate from the public, through stakeholders such as Crimestoppers or from Home Office staff. This inspection examined how effectively the IMS captured and recorded information relating to allegations made about immigration or customs offences and considered how this information was then progressed to inform operational activity.
The Chief Inspector was pleased to find that:
• in 94% of cases in our sample (15) where the Home Office took action after receiving an allegation, he considered that the action taken was appropriate;
• IMS users were able to take action quickly when necessary once an allegation had been initially assessed. This resulted in effective operational work such as the disruption of a sham marriage ceremony;
• following Home Office background checks, IMS users were able to identify that seven alleged offenders in our sample had valid leave to remain and correctly closed the case;
• an advanced search function added in August 2013 has enabled users to search within the system for allegations which may be connected and enhance the overall intelligence picture;
• the public could submit allegations directly (via an online form) for the first time and planned upgrade work during 2014 will further enhance IMS functionality.
However, the Chief Inspector also found that:
• in order for the information contained within the IMS to be of real value, it is important that, after it is disseminated to the relevant team, appropriate action is taken. However, he found examples where the receiving team had failed to act appropriately on IMS information;
• the Home Office had failed to adhere to the Ministerial target of two working days to process allegations in over a third (39%) of the cases. This led to some time-critical allegations not being assessed until it was too late to take preventative action;
• the details of allegations were not being routinely cross-checked against the information already on the IMS. In one category (‘No Further Action’ actionable cases), we found that almost a quarter were duplicates of others already on the system;
• management information taken from the IMS was limited and produced unreliable performance reports;
• In 12 cases in our sample we found no evidence that any background checks had been conducted on Home Office systems, despite the fact that details of the alleged offender had been provided;
• there were significant issues with data quality. An electronic form which needs to completed with details of allegations had not been completed correctly in 35 cases (28% of our overall sample);
• management assurance took place in only 14% of our sample (18 cases);
• in 14 of 38 cases (30%) where the source of the allegation submitted their details, these details were not added to the electronic form and would not be identified in a search. This could seriously undermine the ability of the National Source Unit (NSU) to mitigate source risks;
• staff demonstrated limited knowledge of the relevant guidance and legislation regarding managing source risks. This led to inconsistent practices in dealing with sources.
Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, John Vine CBE QPM, said:
“In my 2011 report on the use of intelligence in the then UKBA, I recommended that allegations were recorded and assessed to inform operational activity relating to customs and immigrations offences. Therefore, I was pleased to find that the Home Office had acted on this and established an Intelligence Management System.
This system provides clear benefits by enabling collection and analysis of allegations to develop intelligence, inform strategy and direct operational enforcement and caseworking activity.
However, I found that more could be done to improve the quality of data entry and improve case management. I was concerned to find that opportunities to prevent or identify offences may have been missed. A number of the allegations in my file sample could have been investigated but were wrongly categorised as being of no value.
The Home Office must ensure that the value of information contained within allegations to various parts of the business is recognised and that any action taken is appropriate. It must also ensure initial assessment of allegations takes place within the 2 day Ministerial target.”
The Chief Inspector made FOUR recommendations for improvement. These included, ensuring all allegations were assessed properly and providing all intelligence staff with adequate training in handling sources.