As a result, some of the UK’s most vulnerable citizens are still at risk of abuse because of technology delays at the public sector agency.
The NAO said government planners were over-optimistic in estimating how many checks could be processed online while supplier Capita underestimated the cost of the project.
Shortly after it launched, the CRB was swamped by the number of requests for background checks on potential employees.
The NAO report found that government planners had assumed that between 70% and 85% of requests would be made online. In the event, however, over 80% of applications were made in paper form.
‘The performance problems suffered by the CRB caused considerable difficulties for customers,’ said Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO, in a statement.
The service has since improved, but disruption to the service is still being felt.
Checks against the Department of Health’s list of persons unsuitable to work with vulnerable adults will not start until June.
The lowest level of checks – so-called ‘basic disclosures’ – are vital to ensure the CRB is self-funding, yet will not be offered until the end of 2004. The CRB will not break even until 2005-06, the NAO revealed.
The taxpayer is to foot the bill for the deficits between 2002-03 and 2004-05, which amount to £68m. The initial contract was worth £400m over 10 years to Capita.
The NAO noted that employment vetting was only one aspect of protecting the vulnerable. It also called for improvements in the time taken to update the Police National Computer.
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