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Public Accounts Committee: “little to show” for the large amounts of money spent on Rwanda and accommodation sites

The Public Accounts Committee has published a report “Asylum Accommodation and UK-Rwanda Partnership” in which it criticises the Home Office in both of these areas. By the end of March this year, spending on the Rwanda scheme had reached £240 million. The plan to open four large scale accommodation centres is expected to cost £1.2 billion.

That figure should be considered in the context of RAF Scampton and Wethersfield, each estimated to cost £5 million but currently spending for those sites is at £27 million and £49 million respectively. The cost of those two sites is now expected to be £46 million more than if hotels had been used instead.

The committee raised the following issues:

  • That the Home Office does not have a credible plan for implementing the Rwanda partnership.
  • In the rush to establish large accommodation sites, the Home Office made unacceptable and avoidable mistakes and failed to protect value for money.
  • The Home Office does not have sufficient safeguards in place for people waiting in the inadmissibility process and there have been numerous reports of self-harm and suicide.
  • The Home Office has not engaged effectively with local authorities about the impact its work is having on local areas.
  • The Home Office does not yet know how it will evaluate the impact and value for money of the Rwanda partnership.
  • The Permanent Secretary is still not providing the transparency needed by parliament to be able to hold the Home Office to account.

The following recommendations were made:

Recommendation 1: In its Treasury Minute response, the Home Office should set out its implementation plan for the Rwanda partnership, including a breakdown of current cost estimates. This should include an update on the arrangements for —and cost of—transporting people to Rwanda. It should also explain how it has assessed the feasibility of relocating people, based on the revised plan.

Recommendation 2: As part of its Treasury Minute response, the Home Office should set out what it will do differently in the future so it ensures it undertakes sufficient due diligence at the outset of projects and protects taxpayers’ money when working at pace.

Recommendation 3a: The Home Office should, before the end of July, write to the Committee to explain how it is ensuring the wellbeing of people pending relocation and what plans it has to provide clarity for their future.

Recommendation 3b: The Home Office should also update the Committee quarterly on the number of people awaiting relocation and how many are being supported by the Home Office, including specifying how many have waited for more than one year.

Recommendation 3c:The Home Office should also update the Committee quarterly on any penalties issued relating to safety matters (including health and welfare). The update should state for each penalty the size of the penalty, the reason for it, the location concerned, and the contractor to whom the penalty has been issued.

Recommendation 4: The Home Office should, within three months, write to us setting out what it will do to better understand the impact its asylum policies are having in local areas and how its liaison officers will help resolve the litany of problems raised with us by councils.

Recommendation 5: As a matter of urgency, the Home Office should develop a robust evaluation strategy to assess the deterrent impact of the third country asylum processing policy, carefully considering whether it is possible to assess the success of this policy in isolation. It should also explain how it intends to assess value for money.

Recommendation 6: As a matter of urgency, and no later than one month after the publication of this report, the Home Office should:

• Publish all outstanding Accounting Officer Assessments, including those where there has been a significant change to an ongoing programme, and in the future should publish all Accounting Officer Assessments in a timely manner; and

• Write to the Committee to explain how it intends to share information about negotiations with other countries it is considering for third country processing, while respecting confidentiality

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Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan is an experienced immigration, asylum and public law solicitor. She has been practising for over ten years and was previously legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association and legal and policy director at Rainbow Migration. Sonia is the Editor of Free Movement.


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