UKBA in the dock: accused of 'whitewashing' seized illegal drug figures

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    The United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) has been accuse of carrying out professional misconduct by inflating the figure of illega drugs seized at the ports so they can be seen as working harder.

    The body allegedly  massaged and fiddled figures of  drug seizure figures ‘to show Border Agency in a good light’, an action which has been said to tantamount to professional misconduct

    Figures were allegedly released for a select six months only days before official statistics showed less drugs were seized than last year.

    The action was allegedly taken deliberately as the boosted figures were not placed on UKBA website but just ‘handed to a select group of journalists’ in an attempt to avoid detection

    The manipulating attempt was made to show the troubled UK Border Agency in a ‘good light’ as working very hard.

    Bosses decided to release a select six month figure to the press a week before official statistics were due to be released showing the UKBA has actually seized less drugs this year than last.

    The chairman of the UK Statistics Authority Sir Michael Scholar said on Tuesday  the releasing of six month period figures to select journalists was ‘irregular and inconsistent’ with the code of practice.

    Figures released last Monday, showed border officials seized more cocaine and almost double the amount of heroin in the last six months than in the whole of the previous year.

    But days later, the official Home Office Statistical Bulletin showed the amount of cocaine seized by border officials in England and Wales had actually fallen by a quarter in 2010/11 compared with 2009/10, and the amount of heroin seized had halved.

    Sir Scholar has written to Home Office Minister Damian Green seeking reassurances the move was not ‘to generate positive news coverage ahead of the release of the national statistics which showed a decline in the volume of drug seizures’ were unfounded.

    In his letter to Mr Green, Sir Michael wrote: ‘The Statistical Bulletin makes reference to a fall in the volume of seizures of Class A drugs in the most recent period.

    ‘This contrasts with the November 4 press release, which highlights a large increase in seizures, albeit for a different time period.

    ‘The November 4 press release, which appears not to have been published on either the Home Office or the UK Border Agency websites, and seems to have been distributed only to a select group of journalists, makes no reference to the forthcoming Statistical Bulletin.

    He went on: ‘It has been suggested to me that one motivation for this release was to generate positive news coverage ahead of the release of the National Statistics which showed a decline in the volume of drug seizures.

    ‘I would welcome your reassurance that this is not the case. Were it to be the case, the authority’s view is that this would be highly corrosive and damaging to public confidence in official statistics.’

    Sir Michael added that, while the UK Statistics Authority backs the publication of important statistics as soon as they are ready, ‘we believe that the right way to do this is to bring forward publication of the official statistics to the earliest date possible’.

    UKBA chief executive Rob Whiteman, who will be quizzed by MPs today over his role in the ongoing border checks row, welcomed the initial figures, saying: ‘Our work to secure the border all day, every day continues to show significant results despite the efforts of organised crime gangs to circumvent our controls.’

    Source: LUCY BUCKLAND,The Mail