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UK government finds Home Office Biometrics ‘achieves cost savings and value for money’

UK government finds Home Office Biometrics ‘achieves cost savings and value for money’

Accounting officers from the UK Government have evaluated the Home Office Biometrics (HOB) program and found that it “achieves cost savings and value for money” for the Home Office and provides the opportunity “to achieve operational efficiency across a range of business functions.”

In the UK, the home office is the ministerial department in charge of immigration, security, and law and order.

The report evaluated the program under the Managing Public Money legislation, a piece of legislation meant to inform how the UK spends public funds. The review found the program “generates wider public benefits through the identification of new leads for criminal investigations and subsequently more crimes solved.”

HOB, launched in April 2014, looks to create a “core platform for biometric matching and identification services for the UK” as well as to support data sharing nationally and internationally.

The scope of the platform is initially set to handle facial matching, fingerprints, and DNA, as well as to support the adoption of emerging biometric capabilities such as voice or iris-based data.

Specific benefits of the program identified by the review included more leads for policing via searching crime marks across immigration datasets, as well as the mobile biometric search service providing on-street fingerprint identification and time-saving.

The overall cost of the program is estimated to exceed £1.32 billion (approximately US$1.65 billion) in the period 2014/15 to 2032/33.

However, the review revealed that the program will be “considering prioritizations as part of this work and will consider reduced program scope and a longer delivery timeframe if required.”

The report was also able to reveal that the delivery date of the program has also been officially moved from 30 September 2024 to 31 March 2025, as well as that the overall costs of the program are £27.7 million ($34.6 million) more than initially expected.

The review chalked down these increased costs due to issues with “increased costs for delivery,” totaling £5 million ($6.2 million), as well as of £1.4 million ($1.8 million) of costs relating to its Strategic Matcher infrastructure project, and “£19 million of underspend due to delayed supplier delivery in 21/22 and 22/23.”

The UK Home Office’s biometrics program has not been without its issues.

In 2021, a report by The Times found that The UK Home Office inadvertently deleted around 150,000 arrest history records from the Police National Computer (PNC).

These records contained fingerprint and DNA biometrics, which were stored for forensic purposes as well as for checking visa applications. In addition, the report found that this incident suspended the processing of visa applications for two days, and compromised intelligence about criminal suspects.

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