Researchers from LSE have today (Friday 20 October) released their analysis of the government's first Section 37 report on the likely costs of the UK Identity Cards Scheme.
The government's report, released earlier this month, provides Parliamentarians with likely set-up costs of the Scheme for the first time, but is criticised for its lack of openness in many key areas.
The requirement to inform Parliament about the costs of the scheme every six months was intended to allow Parliament to provide effective scrutiny of this important Scheme and to 'be able to take action to stop it before it is too late'. The current report, however, fails to disclose much information that would aid this process and, the researchers believe, does little to increase public confidence in the Scheme. The LSE response therefore makes 19 recommendations for any future s37 reports so that Parliamentarians have a better sense of how the Scheme is progressing.
These recommendations include:
Future s37 reports should provide annual cost estimates and not just ten-year totals for both set up and operating costs.
They should include a detailed breakdown of how the projected costs presented during the Parliamentary process compare to the current estimates in all future reports.
Future s37 reports should describe in detail any policy and design changes that have led to changes in cost structures, and how these relate back to the stated benefits. Any changes to the Scheme must be announced and contrasted with statements made when the Bill was in Parliament.
The Home Office should proceed with a new round of OGC reviews of the Scheme due to the significant changes that appear to have now taken place. Because of the lack of Parliamentary scrutiny of the new Scheme, this review and all internal reviews be made public.
The Home Office should reveal whether and to what extent its cost estimates have been reviewed by persons or bodies independent of the Home Office, giving the dates, purposes and conclusions of such reviews.
Parliament should be informed as to whether the roll out of biometric identity cards for UK citizens will be based, in the first instance, on fingerprint identification only, or whether other biometrics (e.g. iris recognition) will be used from the start.
Parliament should be informed as to how a phased-in approach to biometrics will affect the ability of the register to achieve stated policy goals.
The government should begin disclosing non-commercial design decisions such as the number of enrolment centres, so that Parliament can better understand the extent of the Scheme.
The Home Office should inform Parliament on the timeline for project deployment so as to create greater certainty.
Dr Edgar A Whitley, from LSE's Department of Management, said: 'We are surprised that the government has not taken this opportunity to provide Parliament, industry and the British public with more details about this important Scheme. The section 37 report is worryingly vague about the likely timeline for implementation and we remain concerned about the government's ability to start issuing the first biometric identity cards to UK citizens by 2009, given the ongoing uncertainties about the testing and procurement of biometric and secure database technologies.
'As the whole Scheme is currently undergoing an internal review, it is unclear how these figures might change once the review is completed. Moreover, the need for this further review reveals real issues about the effectiveness of the earlier reviews of the project by the OGC gateway process, HM Treasury and KPMG.'
Dr Edgar Whitley, Information Systems Group, Department of Management, tel: 020 7955 7410, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The LSE Identity Project has issued a number of reports in the last year, and also responses to subsequent government documents, as each has emerged.
To read the LSE response, click here
To read the s37 report, click here
20 October 2006