The European Court of Auditors has criticised financial setbacks and delays of the new Schengen Information System, a border control software that has cost eight times more than its initial budget. EURACTIV France reports.
The Schengen Information System II (SIS) is used by customs, police and all visa authorities in the 26-country Schengen area.
It is a database for alerts regarding people who have committed serious crimes, or who are not allowed to cross European borders. It also contains information on missing and wanted people, and lost or stolen objects like bank notes, cars, firearms or identity documents. Alerts and other information can be added to the system by national authorities.
Protecting European borders is expensive
The magnitude and implementation of anti-terrorist and immigration programmes have been at the centre of debate in the European Commission. In 2009, the European Parliament voted to set up SIS II, a system supposed to take over from SIS I in 2013, with an initial budget of €68 million.
Costs have since gone through the roof. The European Court of Auditors announced that the budget for the SIS II’s central computer was €189 million, to which can be added an extra €330 million to pay for national variations of the system. It amounted to €519 million, much higher than the initial €68 million.
In a report, the Court of Auditors blamed the European Commission for not committing enough experts to overlook the project and subsequent time extensions. It also questioned the impact of the new system compared to its predecessor, SIS I, which extended to the member states with great success. According to the European Court of Auditors, the Commission did not prove the efficiency of SIS II relative to its costs.
The report also casts doubt on the organisation and coordination of the project, blaming the complex relationship between the Commission and the EU member states for its failures. It also says the lack of efficient project management is to blame.
For future projects, the Court advised the Commission to take measures in order to better organise its computing contracts. The report outlines some key points to ensure better organisation, including establishing strict deadlines, carrying out technical analysis and ensuring that contracts are integrated to governmental agreements. The Court also advised the Commission to develop better skills in managing organisational information systems.
In 2001, eleven EU member states put in place the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement and got rid of most police and custom controls on interior EU borders.
The SIS I was developed at the same time in order to fill in what national authorities referred to as a "security deficit" connected to opening borders. This system was an upgrade of a system connecting national authorities (for example: the missing persons file in France).
Updating SIS I was initially planned for 2006. It eventually occurred in 2013.
European Court of Auditors