ID cards debate must be frank, says Passport Service

The Identity and Passport Service is expecting bidders for the £5.4bn ID cards scheme to raise critical points about the feasibility of the scheme as part of the competitive dialogue that forms the next part of the procurement process.

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The Identity and Passport Service is expecting bidders for the £5.4bn ID cards scheme to raise critical points about the feasibility of the scheme as part of the competitive dialogue that forms the next part of the procurement process.

Major public sector IT schemes – including those for the tax credit system and the rural payments agency - have been dogged by the reluctance of both government commissioners and contractors to admit that there could be problems with the feasibility or the cost-effectiveness of implementing a complex scheme.

The government has also refused repeatedly to order a feasibility review of the £12.4bn NHS National Programme for IT, despite calls by 23 computing academics and the influential Commons Public Accounts Committee, although aspects of the programme will now be probed by health minister Lord Darzi.

IPS commercial director Bill Crothers emphasised that the agency was seeking “a two-way process” of discussion with the eight firms shortlisted for the National Identity Scheme (NIS) framework contract, following preliminary stages of the procurement that had centred on an exchange of documents.

He told ComputerworldUK he was aiming for an “engaging” dialogue. “We’re in a room with them. From now until Christmas and beyond, discussions will be very extensive,” he said.

Asked whether bidders would be expected to highlight potential technical feasibility problems, Crothers said IPS had had pre-procurement talks with suppliers’ body Intellect “to get views from the industry about whether [the scheme] was sensible, feasible, properly constructed and so on”.

He added: “I would expect [the bidders] will be expressing comments, criticisms and compliments during the process.”

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