The Sunday Times publishes some leaked emails between senior civil servants in the Treasury and the Home Office's Identity and Passport Service, which show how the controversial multi-billion pound National Identity Register and ID Card scheme, has all the hallmarks of previous major Government IT project disasters - no proper business plan or agreed detailed technical design, and lots of political meddling.
These emails, assuming that they are genuine, show that there is still no business case, even after over £30 million of consultancy fees and over 4 years of Home Office work on the project. This business case is not even set to be submitted for approval until March 2007.
This business case should have been available and made public before to inform the debate on the Draft Identity Cards Bill, back in 2004.
There seems to be some sort of plan to bodge together a Temporary National Identity Register so as to be able to pretend to have met the ludicrous time-scale promises made by Tony Blair and his NuLabour Ministers.
However, this means two sets of overlapping procurement processes, as the Temporary NIR will almost certainly be a very different beast from the full system.
This is not the same as a properly planned and costed series of large scale Pilot Schemes, as part of a properly defined project.
This is not the way in which to conduct a successful major IT project !
The NO2ID campaign are, rightly, calling for the Identity cards Act to be repealed:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NO2ID: Axe “fraud” ID scheme NOW
Following devastating revelations in the Sunday Times today , civil liberties campaigners demanded an immediate and permanent halt to the government’s ID cards programme, and repeal of the ID legislation.
A series of e-mails  leaked by a senior official “close to the Treasury” confirm that the project is in melt-down, blame Tony Blair personally for the fiasco, and predict a botched introduction that “could put back the introduction of ID cards for a generation”.
Phil Booth, NO2ID  National Coordinator said:
“This whole scheme has been built on deception. The government has systematically misled the public, bullied Parliament and anyone who dared to speak against them, and wasted tens of millions already on a scheme that officials now admit is unworkable.
“Now we discover that the whole thing has been rushed, just to fit Tony Blair’s political agenda. The government’s much-hailed ‘gold standard’ of ID is a complete sham.
“NO2ID said all along that the goal was not the cards, but the database at the heart of the system. The Identity Cards Act is still far too dangerous to leave on the statute books, because it still empowers a control-freak fantasy of running our lives by database. Now the fraud is revealed, it must be repealed.”
- ENDS –
Notes for editors
1) ‘ID cards doomed, say officials’ by David Leppard in The Sunday Times:
2) E-mail exchange between Peter Smith, acting commercial director at the Identity and Passport Service and David Foord, ID card project director at the Office of Government Commerce:
3) NO2ID is the UK-wide, non-partisan campaign against compulsory ID cards and the National Identity Register, see http://www.no2id.net
For further information, or for immediate or future interview, please contact Phil Booth (National Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org) on 07974 230 839, or Guy Herbert (General Secretary, email@example.com) on 07956 544 308.
Some of the acronyms used in the emails:
- IPS = Identity and Passport Service, the successor to the Passport Service, an Executive Agency of the Home Office which is charged with implementing the National Identity Register. Presumably Home Office Ministers hope that if this Executive Agency fails to deliver the project properly, they can somehow blame the Chief Executive and more junior Civil Servants, rather than the core Home Office Ministers.
- OGC = Office of Government Commerce - the part of the Treasury which is supposed to audit the project management of major Government projects, especially Information Technology ones , especially those involving public and private finance.
- Gate 0 and Gate 2 = formal stages and Reports in the OGC Gateway Process evaluation of such projects, by independent consultants and project managers. These reports are, controversially, being kept secret from the public and even from Parliamentary Select Committees, even the out of date ones which contain no commercially sensitive price information. We are still hoping for a postive result to our Freedom of Information Act Request for the earliest of these Gateway Reviews, but the Information Commissioner has been dithering over our complaint for over 15 months so far.
- HO = Home Office
- HMT = Her Majesty's Treasury
- PM = Prime Minister
- APSS= Approved Suppliers Scheme (the acronym ASS might be misconstrued).
- TNIR = presumably the "temporary" or "face saving" or "early variant" version of the National Identity Register. According to the emails, this is Tony Blair's idea.
- OJEU =Official Journal of the European Union. All major Government projects tenders are published (electronically) in this, so that all EU companies can try to submit tenders for the work (certain "national security" aspects of such contracts can be withheld from EU wide competition).
According to another Sunday Times article:
"The correspondence has been leaked by a senior official close to the Treasury. He acknowledges that the documents will infuriate ministers because they contradict the government’s public statements on ID cards."
Is that an "official" Treasury spin doctor leak, given that it is the Prime Minister and Home Office Ministers, rather than the Chancellor Gordon Brown whose public statements the emails contradict ?
Is it an unofficial whistleblower leak ? Have all reasonable precautions been taken to protect such whistleblowers ?
Are David Cracknell and other Sunday Times journalists under surveillance and having their phones and emails intercepted in order to track down their Government whistleblower sources ?
Previous Sunday Times leaks in 2004, about the Identity Card scheme, which revealed Cabinet Committee memos between the Foreign Office and the Home Office, were traced to a Sunday Times trainee reporter working as an agency temporary secretary in John Prescott's Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, after stints in the Cabinet Office. Presumably, in this case, no further action was taken, and she appears to have written articles for the Sunday Times this year.