An audit report released yesterday has criticised the implementation of a system meant to combat identity theft and fraudulent use of stolen identities.
The system, called the National Document Verification Service (nDVS) was intended to provide government agencies with a means of checking documents against the records of the agency which issued them. If the details in the document were correct, a "Yes" response was to be transmitted. Otherwise a "No" would be returned. To function, the system needed an independent hub that connected the document issuers and users.
The government had committed $28.3 million to set up the system over four years, with a large part of that going to the Attorney-General's Department, which is responsible for identity security issues.
However, the roll-out of the system has been delayed, with the program around 18 months behind schedule, according to the audit report. Agencies have not been quick to take up the system because it hasn't proven to be more reliable or convenient in combating identity theft than other methods, with the timely delivery of responses being an ongoing issue. The system can handle one million transactions a day, but has only been carrying out 10 a day.
One of the problems has been the accuracy of the system. Although 50,000 responses have been issued with the system, there have been no fraudulent documents identified with a "No" response. This didn't mean that all the documents were definitely correct, as a large percentage of the responses were errors attributable to incorrect data entry or data errors. Another problem was long response times.
"The current, very limited, use of the nDVS indicates that it is unlikely in the immediate future that use of the nDVS will significantly contribute to strengthening Australia's personal identification processes," the report said.
It ruled that planning for the program could have been improved. It suggested that the Attorney-General's Department review the barriers to take-up the system and develop strategies to get around them.
The Attorney-General's Department said it had recognised that the implementation of the service had been "slower than anticipated"; however, it thought it had been responsive to problems. Although it didn't agree with the appraisal that the Attorney-General's Department didn't appreciate risks, it supported the audit report's review suggestion.