Tuesday, October 10, 2006
The Home Office now estimate that the cost of delivering and running the ID card scheme over the next ten years will be Â£5.4bn. All well and good (apart from the ID card part of the announcement) as the figures fall in line with the figure of Â£5.8bn previously estimated by the Home Office. The government has published this information as part of its first bi-annual report to parliament as required under s37 of the Identity Cards Act
However, I couldn't identify anywhere on the Home Office website where the breakdown of these costs was given. Eventually I managed ttrackck down a copy of the report itself here. Guess what? No details except the setup costs will be Â£290m and the operating costs will be Â£5,100m. The details would have been interesting to see given the LSE reports which have estimated that the true cost to government as a whole might be somewhere between Â£19bn and Â£30bn over ten years
The LSE identity project has already published its initial response to the report in which it says "the report remains vague on many important areas of the scheme and raises important questions:"
Their response goes on to list the outstanding issues as follows :
It gives no details as to whether the new system is likely to be based on a new database (which can have proper security built in) or on existing databases which will have many inaccuracies. What is the breakdown of the 'set-up costs'? Will this entail a new register or an adaptation of older systems?
There is no indication of when procurement is likely to begin or how long it is likely to take. When will the procurement process actually begin?
It talks confidently about successfully recording biometrics to identify individuals uniquely, but there are no immediate plans to trial possible technologies at this stage. How much will the Government spend on testing the technology, particularly secure systems required in this as well as the biometric technologies?
It refers to international obligations for passports in the Schengen area, but fails to point out that the UK is not subject to these requirements. Has the Government looked into the implementation of biometric passport in the Schengen area? Do their passport programs incur similar costs and details?
No consideration is made of the likely fees that will be charged to verify identities against the National Identity Register. Has the Government estimated costs of allowing employers to verify visas through verification against existing visa databases for foreign employment?
The claimed purpose of the Scheme continues to shift. It now appears to be primarily about illegal working and illegal immigration, rather than identity fraud which was claimed as the main purpose a year ago.
One of the expected benefits of the Scheme is convenience for citizens. What policy and cost considerations are involved in the integration of the Citizen Information Program into the National Identity Register?
So no major questions to answer then? Oh except what might we do with that £5.4bn instead? Maybe we could increase the number of Police Officers or something similarly practical. Let alone suppose the figure is larger or anywhere near the £30bn suggested by the LSE. I am sure the true figure will be way higher than the governments estimate simply because they are very clear that it does not include any costs to enable other government departments to make use of the ID card. Clearly they are going to make use of it so failing to identify and plan for the costs does not seem either sensible or realistic.