The Whitehall division liable for safety vetting has presided over a mounting backlog that poses dangers for nationwide safety and the “functioning of presidency”, MPs warned on Friday.
The Cupboard Workplace, which coordinates the supply of coverage in live performance with different departments, assumed accountability for UK Safety Vetting (UKSV) in April 2020, giving it management over entry to authorities info, together with prime secret information.
The report comes at a time of rising public frustration with backlogs increase throughout many public establishments from the NHS, the Passport Workplace, to the processing of asylum seekers.
It additionally coincides with rising calls, together with from inside the ruling Conservative occasion, for the resignation of Simon Case, who leads the division, after a tumultuous interval for the civil service.
The cross-party parliamentary public accounts committee, which scrutinises authorities spending, mentioned the Cupboard Workplace had proved an obstacle to reform on the UKSV.
It concluded that the division was “making a threat setting many customers throughout authorities are uncomfortable with”.
The committee additionally mentioned it was involved with “complacency” over renewing clearance for officers already in publish, and that the UKSV had been understaffed since inception in 2017.
“The Cupboard Workplace seems deaf to the discomfort that employees throughout authorities have with the extent of threat being created by its failure to get a grip on our nationwide safety vetting companies,” Dame Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, mentioned.
The report mentioned the UKSV had failed to fulfill key targets since July 2021 for essentially the most stringent ranges of safety vetting required when people have frequent and uncontrolled entry to prime secret belongings.
It had additionally missed targets for decrease stage clearances in 30 out of the previous 60 months, the report discovered, and famous that the backlog was nonetheless rising.
“The Cupboard Workplace . . . appears content material to repeatedly prolong DV [developed vetting, the highest security clearance in the UK] renewals as a method of managing demand, regardless of the elevated threat related,” the report mentioned.
Many departments throughout authorities that depend on the method had been “uncomfortable” concerning the potential penalties, it added.
“That is all completely unacceptable. We anticipate the Cupboard Workplace to set out and instantly get on with productive change in response to this report,” Hillier mentioned.
The report really helpful that the division units out how the backlogs will likely be cleared, when UKSV will meet its targets and what modifications it is going to make to working practices to keep away from future delays.
The Cupboard Workplace mentioned turnround occasions for the best stage of clearance had greater than halved from April 2022 to April 2023, including that it was persevering with to reform and enhance vetting processes.
“This has already resulted in over 200,000 safety checks being efficiently accomplished within the final yr with the best annual stage of DV clearances since UKSV was created in 2017.”