Borders agency told to face the fax
The agency that deals with asylum seekers has been criticised for still relying on faxes, instead of email, to carry out its daily business.
The UK Border Agency's use of the machines to send a large amount of documents relating to asylum seekers exposes the agency to a "greater risk of error" and is "costly" compared to using email and "internet portals", a report by the National Audit Office found.
A large number of notes and forms are also still handwritten despite electronic versions of the forms being available, according to the report into how the agency handles asylum applications.
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The report, released today, also criticised the way the Casework Information Database (CID) and Asylum Support System are run on different operating systems - called Indigo and Poise - leaving them unable to share information.
The report said: "Time is wasted and effort duplicated in swapping between systems and repeating tasks."
The agency's accuracy in recording key events on the CID ranged from 84 to 92 per cent, which the report said could make it difficult both to establish the status of a case and to take the actions needed to complete it.
But the accuracy rates across all data on the CID was better, standing at 96 per cent - above the agency's own target of 95 per cent.
According to the report, the agency also believes the introduction of digital recording could slash asylum case workers' interview times - which can last for up to six hours - by as much as half, as well as double the availability of interview rooms.
Agency staff said the current practice of having to write notes while conducting asylum interviews is a "significant challenge", the report said.
The agency is now testing the digital recording and transcription of interviews with a pilot scheme at its Cardiff office.
A spokeswoman for the UK Border Agency said: "[The report] acknowledges that we have an improved grip on asylum applications, and that since our previous examination, the Agency has become better organised.
"The Integrated Case Working programme, which will be in place by 2013, will improve our work further."