Revealing e-mails revealed: part 1

by Stephen Tall on July 9, 2006

Today’s Sunday Times carries the welcome news that:

Tony Blair’s flagship identity cards scheme is set to fail and may not be introduced for a generation, according to leaked Whitehall e-mails from the senior officials responsible for the multi-billion-pound project.

Of course, I would prefer it if Labour had seen the light, and recognised that the ID card scheme is wrong in principle. But it’s nice to know this Government’s incompetence can also create a benign impact.

The article quotes David Foord, the ID card project director at the Office of Government Commerce (responsible for vetting the project to ensure that the Treasury gets value for taxpayers’ money):

“Even if everything went perfectly (which it will not) it is very debatable (given performance of government IT projects) whether whatever [the register] turns out to be (and that is a worry in itself) can be procured, delivered, tested and rolled out in just over two years and whether the resources exist within government and industry to run two overlapping procurements.

“What benchmark in the Home Office do we have that suggests that this is even remotely feasible? I conclude that we are setting ourselves up to fail.”

He reveals that the contracts for the ID card scheme are under threat because of “the amount of rethinking going on about identity management”. He also says they are “[un]affordable”; “lack clear benefits from which to demonstrate a return on investment”; and suffer from a “very serious shortage of appropriately qualified staff”.

Foord says: “I do not have a problem with ministers wanting a face-saving solution but we need to be clear with … senior officials, special advisers and ministers just what this implies.”

He then warns of a “botched introduction” of the scheme, adding: “If it is subject to a media feeding frenzy, which it might well be close to a general election, [it] could put back the introduction of ID cards for a generation and won’t do much for IPS credibility nor for the government’s election chances.”

So a failed identity card scheme could help bring down this Labour Government…? sounds like a win-win.