28 November 2012

UKBA chiefs refuse to give back bonuses after UK immigration backlog

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Two of the most senior staff in the UK Border Agency (UKBA) have refused to return bonuses they received during their time at the agency, despite allegedly misleading MPs over the presence of an extensive UK immigration backlog.

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Keith Vaz MP, who originally suggested the officials should return bonuses, said the select committee accepted the official's apology.

Earlier this month John Vine, the chief inspector of borders and immigration, released a report in which he criticised the UKBA's handling of an extensive backlog of UK immigration cases.

Mr Vine said agency officials had informed MPs the cases were only put into a 'controlled archive' after exhaustive checks had been carried out to try and find the applicants. However, the chief inspector found the controlled archive to be in fact 100,000 items of unopened post.

Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee which the UKBA staff reported to, said at the time misleading the House was an 'extremely serious matter' and recommended that the staff in charge should return bonuses they received.

Lin Homer, who now heads the HMRC but was chief executive of the UKBA until January 2011, said she apologised for the backlog's severity but refused to return the £20,000 of bonuses she received in her position claiming she hadn't 'been bonused' in the years identified by the chief inspector as having 'significant failings'.

Similarly, Jonathan Sedgwick, who succeeded Ms Homer as acting chief executive and who is now UKBA's international director, also said he had not received any bonuses during his time as acting chief and refused to return the £10,000 bonus he received as acting chief executive.

Mr Sedgwick did cancel a trip to India in order to apologise in person to MPs.

"I had no intention of misleading you, it is clear it is not a satisfactory position and I'm grateful for the opportunity to look you in the eyes as it were and apologise," he said.

Mr Vaz did not reiterate his demands for the return of bonuses but accepted the apology with only a word of warning.

"We accept your apology," said the MP. "If there is any further instance of information coming to this committee that is inaccurate then that will be a contempt of the House."

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