UK Borders Agency inks immigration biometrics deal with IBM

The UK Borders Agency (UKBA) has negotiated a new immigration biometrics contract with computer giant IBM worth £191 million, which it says is significantly less than the price originally planned – very generous.

The contract, which will last for seven years, will see IBM develop the Immigration and Asylum Biometric System, which will be employed to speed up immigration checks on biometric visas, registration cards for assylum seekers and biometric residence permits.

The Immigration Minister, Damian Green, announced the deal with IBM and revealed that the government scrapping of the national ID card programme endangered the prospects of the new biometric system.

He said that the system is neccessary to “strengthen our ability to control the entry of foreign nationals into the UK and identify those who pose a risk to our country.”

The biometric system will be part of the UKBA’s National Identity Assurance Service, which includes a database of fingerprints and facial images. This system is designed to ensure the safety of citizens by keeping an eye out for people who have committed a crime, been deported, or been turned down for a visa.

Green claimed that the UKBA managed to save £50 million, or nearly 20 percent, from the contract price with IBM by cutting aspects of the planned system that were no longer needed, such as component for storing data on UK nationals.

IBM has previously mucked up programmes it was contracted for in the UK, such as the congestion charge deal it made with Capita in November 2009. IBM overcharged road users by tens of thousands of pounds using the Auto Pay system, not to mention a number of other bugs and flaws in the system since it took over. How it will fare with immigration is anyone’s guess.