ID cards a cash bonfire in the making?

Troubled chancellor Alistair Darling could have saved himself a nifty £6bn in Tuesday’s pre-budget report by canning the unnecessary, ill-conceived and wildly unpopular national ID Card scheme.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010
It’s a measure of the opprobrium that the hi-tech scheme has attracted that not only have the usual civil liberties types been queuing up to have a go, it’s also been denigrated by those which is intended to serve. Dame Stella Rimington, former MI5 chief, is on record for having branded the cards ‘useless’.

Now it seems that even the big-name IT companies - which stand to benefit to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds from the scheme and are not organisations renowned for putting personal morals before the profit motive – want to have much to do with it.

The procurement process which will lead to the issuing of the five key contracts - worth between £50m and £500m each - has only just begun, and according to early reports BT has already ruled itself out of the running while similar rumours have apparently emerged from formerly-state owned defence business Qinetiq amongst others.

This widespread dissatisfaction apparently stems from the feeling that the two year timescale for the complex scheme is impossibly optimistic, especially given that, according to one anonymous industry source quoted earlier this week, ‘The authorities don’t appear to be sure what they want from each contract.’

Hmm. With project management of that calibre right from the off, the ID card scheme has the potential to make the Child Support Agency debacle look like a lucky escape. It must be a hot favourite for the most expensive public IT disaster of all time.

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