'Outstanding work' at the UK Border Agency

Another week, another story of shameless squandering of taxpayers’ money. With the news of the government’s inability to regulate bailed-out banks’ unreasonable bonus hand-out fresh on our minds, it emerged this week that bonuses totalling £295,000 were paid out to 29 civil servants at the UK Border Agency last year on top of, of course, their regular salary.

What exactly were the civil servants at the UK Borders Agency being rewarded for, I hear you ask. Well, Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, has defended the ludicrous pay-out stating that ‘it is right to reward staff for outstanding work’. This is a reasonable statement, outstanding work should indeed be rewarded. But here at The TaxPayers’ Alliance, we are having trouble making sense of the Immigration Minister’s definition of ‘outstanding work’. The incompetence of the UK Borders Agency is legendary. Its predecessor - the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) - had been dubbed ‘not fit for purpose’ by former Home Secretary John Reid because of, amongst other things, its traditional backlog of cases. It appears that not much has changed since.

The Telegraph reports that through their recent investigations, the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee unearthed a fresh backlog of abandoned case files, which means that the officials at the UK Borders Agency simply do know where tens of thousands of potential illegal immigrants are. Outstanding work? We beg to differ.

Among other ludicrous findings, the Committee also discovered that 88,500 files marked as concluded had errors in them, for example, that the individual had already been deported or granted a different form of leave to remain. Keith Vaz, the Chairman of the Committee was rightly surprised and disappointed at the “number of cases where the UKBA is basically saying ‘we don’t know’ exactly what has happened to these applicants – over half the applications are concluded for some ‘other’ reason than being granted or denied leave: too many of these are errors, and for the vast majority it appears UKBA just can’t tell us what’s happened.” [Emphasis added].

The UK Borders Agency has an extremely important role to play. The very serious work that it is entrusted with has a direct effect on the nation’s development, its well-being, its security. To ensure that the civil servants at the Agency do a proper job it is important to pay them well, even reward them with bonuses when the work done is outstanding. Taxpayers appreciate this. But to fork out ridiculous amounts of our hard-earned money in bonuses on an Agency that has repeatedly been, and continues to be, criticised for its shocking incompetence is simply preposterous. If the money was instead spent on increasing the standard of education in this country, our hope for competent future civil servants would perhaps be less unreasonable.

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