Government continues to stonewall over ID card costs

Summary:It's not just implementation that we don't know the price of: Government departments aren't saying how much taking advantage of the system once it's in place will cost either

The two government departments that are likely to be the biggest users of ID cards have completed an assessment of the costs of integrating the technology into their IT systems — but are refusing to release the figures on grounds of commercial sensitivity.

The NHS and the Department for Work and Pensions have also both identified the likely public services that ID cards will be used for, for authentication and verification purposes.

Health minister Liam Byrne said there are no plans to use ID cards to access the NHS Care Record Service and that not all NHS services will require a high degree of integration between the ID cards scheme and other IT systems.

He told MPs in answer to a recent parliamentary question: "The estimates are therefore commercially sensitive and to release them may prejudice the procurement process and the department's ability to obtain value for money from potential suppliers."

Academics at the London School of Economics (LSE) claim that integrating the ID cards IT infrastructure with all the government departments and public bodies expected to use the national identity register adds an extra £5bn to £10bn of public money that will need to be spent on the project over 10 years — in addition to the Home Office's current estimate of a £5.8bn project cost.

Professor Ian Angell from the information systems department at LSE told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com these costs will inevitably end up being passed on to ordinary taxpayers.

He said: "At the end of the day it's the sucker at the bottom of the food chain who will pay."

There is still no estimate of how much it will cost local authorities to make their IT systems compatible with the ID card scheme. The office of the deputy prime minister has told MPs it is still talking to local authorities to develop a business case for authentication and verification management, which "could include the use of the identity card".

Central government departments who say they have yet to finalise their estimates of the cost of using ID cards or even what services they will be useful for include the Ministry of Defence; the Department for Transport; the Department for Constitutional Affairs; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; and the Northern Ireland Office.

The Department for Trade and Industry said it has no plans to use ID cards for any of its services and so has made no estimate of the costs of using them while the Treasury said it does not anticipate any extra costs as a result of ID cards.

Topics: Government : UK

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