The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) will require a costly investment in technology if it is ever to meet its goals, but IT services firm Capita insists it is not to blame for the problem.
An independent review of the CRB concluded that it would be unable to provide employee vetting within its three-week target, unless an electronic system is introduced.
The system went live in March 2002, but relied on paper-based applications. As a result, a backlog built up for background checks on job applicants dealing with children or the vulnerable.
The decision to implement a paper-based system "was not taken by us", insisted Jonathan Hawker, Capita's external relations advisor.
Capita had "always envisaged that there would be an electronic front-end", according to Hawker, but introduced the system following requests from the employers.
The delays which resulted have caused misery, according to Oliver Letwin, shadow Home Secretary.
"It is hospitals and schools that suffer because of the staff shortages this incompetence has produced," he explained.
The independent review team set up to review the fiasco reported that the resulting system is "inadequate to cope with demand".
It concluded that the only way to get the system working satisfactorily would be to renegotiate the contract with Capita.
But experts have warned that the government will be hamstrung as it enters negotiations to introduce an electronic system.
"If you don't go out to tender, you're not going to get the best price. The supplier is in a strong position to dictate costs," said Dai Davis, IT contract lawyer at law firm Nabarro Nathanson.
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