The continued success of UK Security Vetting is putting the workings of government agencies and national security at risk, the National Audit Office has warned.
The watchdog said delays in inspections by the UKSV – which sits in the Cabinet Office – meant government departments were “at risk of not progressing work related to national security”. The need for major innovation in the technology sector of the organization was identified by the auditor as a major problem.
The watchdog is now in the midst of a multi-year transformation programme, and the NAO said it was “vital that the Cabinet Office set a clear path forward for significant reforms to deliver the service, including recruiting and retaining talented employees.“implementing and managing sustainable improvement”.
Meanwhile, the UKSV’s performance – particularly the turnaround time for Developed Vetting licenses – has deteriorated significantly in 2021-22, due to increased demand as Covid restrictions are gradually eased.
DV payments took almost 180 days in April 2022, almost double the UKSV’s 95 day target. The Cabinet Office said the turnaround time was reduced to 98 days in November. The UKSV also fails to meet the objective of providing a regulatory framework for DV licences, the NAO said.
Meanwhile, targets for Counter Terrorist Checks, Security Checks and DV permits have been reduced every month from August 2021, the NAO said.
In January 2022, the UKSV launched a short-term recovery plan, called the delivery consolidation plan, which aims to reduce backlogs and improve turnaround times for all levels by streamlining processes and operations. more efficient.
Guardians say Covid is one of the main reasons for UKSV’s deterioration. But it also blamed staffing and reliance on “old and unstable” IT systems, with frequent power outages that slow down and halt the clean-up process for long periods of time.
The Cabinet Office’s first attempt to modernize IT infrastructure was nearly 50% over budget and ended in failure in 2021, with £2.5m scrapped in 2021. dasa.
Meanwhile, the UKSV estimated it would need 1,145 full-time equivalent staff in 2022-23, based on customer demand forecasts, but 877 in November 2022, including agency staff and temporary staff from other departments.
To improve the system’s problems, UKSV has implemented a reform program since 2019, updating its policies, processes and IT systems.
The reform was originally due to be completed in March this year, but the Cabinet Office has not yet given UKSV approval for a full business case for the programme, as concerns in the delivery of the program.
The NAO said progress had also slowed as the UKSV chose to prioritize the Covid recovery plan and the transfer of services from the MoD. The Cabinet Office currently expects to complete the program by 2024-25 initially.
“Our investigation finds that unacceptable delays continue to hamper security checks, which are vital to the effective running of government, and in particular national security operations,” said NAO chief Gareth Davies.
This is the second investigation by the NAO into UKSV, which was created in 2017 as a single vetting provider for civil servants, contractors and military specialists, combining services provided by the Office of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Ministry of Defence. The UKSV was originally part of the MoD, although defense policy was set by the Cabinet Office.
A 2018 report found that the Cabinet Office-backed decision to create the team increased labor costs by 17% and resulted in repeat incidents, costing millions of pounds a year due to failure.
The UKSV monitors people’s access to sensitive government information, sites, or devices. The Cabinet Office took control of the UKSV in 2020 after “a period of failure”, the NAO said.
But the NAO said UKSV’s record of submitting permits on time remains poor. The government has made “some progress” in long-term efforts to change the way security checks are delivered, he said, “with a clear implementation plan for changing security checks still to be agreed”.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “We are investing in new and improved checks, and last year over 200,000 security checks were successfully completed. It’s a turnaround time for ‘the highest level of halving in more than six months. We know there is still work to be done and plans are moving forward to further improve performance over the coming months.’
On national security, the Cabinet Office said it has set up a major delivery service for all UKSV users during the Covid pandemic, ensuring that government work can go ahead without affecting security. – national.