Progress report, Improvements at the Immigration and Naturalisation Service
State in 2012
The Court of Audit has audited the progress made improving the operation of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). In mid-2004, the IND had been struggling with lengthening delays issuing residence permits to aliens and a growing backlog in the number of extension applications. In 2009 we found that improvements had been made: the time required to deal with applications was shorter and, on average, within the statutory term. We took another look at the situation in 2012. We found that the time required to deal with an application for a standard residence permit had increased again and, on average, was no longer within the statutory term.
The IND (a service of the Ministry of Security and Justice) is responsible for implementing aliens policy in the Netherlands. The IND deals with three kinds of application: standard residence (for study, work or social reasons), asylum and naturalisation. Asylum and naturalisation applications form a relatively small proportion of the IND's total workflow (14% in 2012). We therefore audited only the procedures in place for standard residence permit applications.
Just 50% of the objections were dealt with on time in 2012. The number of complaints and notices of default was accordingly higher, and a smaller proportion (84% and 52% respectively in 2012) were dealt with within the statutory term.
In our opinion, the longer processing time is due in part to the later than planned introduction of the INDiGO processing system. The system is intended to make the production process more efficient and generate better information. INDiGO should initially have been introduced in the second half of 2012 but the IND had been consistently overoptimistic about its implementation. At the end of 2012, INDiGO was still not fully operational. The reduction in personnel envisioned as part of the 'IND up to Date' programme, part of INDiGO, however, had been completed. Furthermore, additional budget cuts had been introduced even though it was not clear how the IND could deliver the services expected of it with fewer human and financial resources.
The House of Representatives was informed in 2012 that the cost of introducing INDiGO had been 59% higher than originally budgeted. The overall cost, however, is even higher because not all additional investments and maintenance costs incurred in 2011 and 2012 had been accounted for. As a result, the House does not have a full insight into the total cost of bringing INDiGO into operation.
We recommend that the Minister of Security and Justice clarify how and when the IND will be able to deal with applications for standard residence permits within the statutory term again. More specifically he should explain when INDiGO will be fully operational and what contribution the system would make to improving the processing of applications and to cutting costs at the IND. In our opinion, the IND should ask itself whether signals from INDiGO should be automatically followed up in order to improve future decision-making.
In keeping with our report Spending Cuts at Executive Organisations of January 2013, we further recommend that the Minister of Security and Justice disclose the proposed spending cuts at the IND separately in the budgets and accounts. More specifically, he should explain how he intends to achieve the proposed improvements in processing time and in other areas at the IND within the budget available to him, or explain how he will amend his performance ambitions.
Response and afterword
The State Secretary for Security and Justice wrote in his response to our report that the implementation of INDiGO would be completed in 2013. He noted that processing times had been declining again since the beginning of 2013. We hope this trend continues. We will consider the actual figures for 2013 in our audit of the Ministry of Security and Justice's annual accounts when they are published in May 214.