The government has signed deals, totalling £650 million, with CSC and IBM for delivering parts of the controversial identity cards programme and upgrading passport systems.
The deals were announced after an eighteen month procurement process, which started with 50 potential suppliers. This was narrowed down to a group of four last November, with IBM and CSC beating EDS and Fujitsu, for the deals.
A £385 million contract has been signed with CSC for the supplier to upgrade the application and enrolment system at the Identity and Passport Service. This will process all applications for ID cards and passports, allow people to apply online, improve background checking, and allow people to update their data.
Under the contract, in which CSC replaces Siemens, ATOS, Sagem and other suppliers, it will also refresh the IT and telephony systems at the IPS. Fujitsu was in the running for the deal but lost out.
The government has also signed a £265 million deal with IBM for a database for fingerprint and facial biometrics. The database will hold details of applicants for passports and ID cards. This will also replace the UK Border Agency’s Immigration and Asylum Fingerprint System, which holds biometrics collected from visa applicants.
The government estimates it will spend £3.6 billion upgrading passports and running the IPS for the next 10 years. ID cards will cost £1.2 billion to deliver, it claims.
Two more non-IT systems contracts are due to be awarded this year – for card and passport design and production.
Home secretary Jacqui Smith said the deals would “bring ID cards and more secure British passports a step closer”, improving border protection. ID cards are being issued to foreign nationals, and this autumn they will be issued to airport staff at Manchester and London City airports – by supplier Thales – as part of an 18 month evaluation.
But ID cards remain highly controversial, facing tough opposition from privacy and civil liberties groups. Two Gateway reviews released last month showed the government was warned about the technical feasibility and merits of the programme in 2003, but pressed on.
Pilots union Balpa last year criticised the fact its members have been chosen for scheme tests, saying they did not want to be used as "guinea pigs".
And a highly critical report commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust called for the scheme to be "scrapped or substantially redesigned", saying it was "almost certainly illegal under human rights or data protection law".