UK ID cards £500 million procurement process begins
Procurement began this week in the national ID card programme, with publication of a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union inviting potential suppliers to get involved.

9 August 2007

Procurement process marks first major steps towards national ID card programme.

Notice sets the stage

The notice will pave the way for a contract - known as a 'framework agreement' - with some pre-qualified suppliers. The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) will then be able to procure what it needs from that group of suppliers once work gets underway on the identity system.

For this programme, IPS will need companies and agencies that provide a range of skills, services and supplies, in both the private and public sectors. The programme will involve large, complex and secure systems, which will need to be managed reliably.

The ultimate goal is to deliver a consistent, high-quality experience to the millions of people who will ultimately have and use ID cards.

A crucial part of the nation's identity infrastructure

Home Office minister Meg Hillier said every step of the process was important, as the National Identity Scheme will be a crucial part of the UK's infrastructure.

'It has become increasingly clear that the methods we have traditionally relied on to prove ID are outdated, inefficient, and open to abuse,' she said. 'That has to end, and that is why we are taking the scheme forward.'

She added, 'We are committed to introducing the scheme carefully and securely, minimising both cost and risk.'

Safeguarding identity

The programme will provide one mechanism to prove identity. It will end the current hodge-podge of methods in which people are identified through letters or bills sent to their houses, or by producing passports or bank account cards as forms of ID.

This vague and unpredictable system is unreliable, and easily defeated by criminals.

IPS Chief Executive James Hall said the agency had worked to include members of the public and representatives from businesses in the process of developing the ID cards programme, and their input had been used to shape plans for the ID cards system.

'The feedback has allowed us first to ensure that the legislation that underpins the scheme is right, and subsequently to refine our vision of how the scheme will be delivered,' he said.

The arguments for having an ID cards plan in place are compelling, he said, and the will to deliver such a system has not faltered.

The strategic action plan for the National Identity Scheme, published in December, sets out the basic timeline for the introduction of biometric immigration documents for foreign nationals in 2008, and identity cards for British citizens in 2009.

Tories repeat warning to scrap ID cards as procurement begins

'Costly white elephant' would go, warns David Davis

By Tash Shifrin

The Conservative Party has reiterated that it will scrap the government’s £5.3bn ID cards scheme as ministers announced that the delayed procurement for the programme had finally begun.


A tender notice for the National Identity Scheme (NIS) strategic supplier framework has now been published, covering most of the scheme’s requirements.

But speaking after the announcement, shadow home secretary David Davis, said: "This project will do nothing to improve our security. In fact independent experts like Microsoft and the London School of Economics have pointed out that it could well make our security worse while costing the tax payer £20bn in the process.

"This is why we have written to the cabinet secretary and the major companies likely to be involved in the bidding process putting them on formal notice that the Conservatives would scrap this costly white elephant."

Davis sent the letter in February, in an unprecedented warning to potential suppliers.

It sparked fury from the supplier community, with trade body Intellect warning that the threat could cast doubt on other major IT procurements.

The publication of the tender notice – in the parliamentary recess – comes two months after the James Hall, chief executive of the Identity and Passport Service, admitted that the procurement for IT systems to support the scheme was set to begin, but "we're not quite ready yet". Hall was speaking in June, as Gordon Brown prepared to take over as prime minister.

The notice says: "It is intended to award a number of projects called off against the framework each to run for up to 10 years in duration."

But some elements may be procured outside the framework, while the framework may also be used to procure for projects outside the NIS, it adds.

The framework will cover replacement of core application and enrolment processes for passports and the provision of desktop infrastructure for the Identity and Passport Service, along with the replacement and upgrading of existing systems for fingerprint matching and storage.

Other potential projects let under the framework are set to include

biometric recording, storage and matching, biographical background and identity checking services, passport and ID card production, biometric enrolment services, entitlement checking and associated case management services.

Home Office minister Meg Hillier said the framework procurement showed the government was "committed to introducing the scheme carefully and securely, minimising both cost and risk".

Identity and Passport Service chief executive James Hall added: "Feedback from the supplier community has shaped our approach to procurement and will ensure we have a competitive process that enables innovative solutions and value for money.

"I am confident that the supplier community will step up to the mark in helping us construct this key national asset."

The Home Office said the scheme would require a range of capabilities from a combination of the private and public sectors, including "the ability to deliver large, complex, secure systems; to manage these systems to deliver reliable performance day after day; to respond flexibly as requirements and priorities evolve; to deliver a consistent, high-quality customer experience to the millions of people who will use the scheme; and to provide outstanding value for money".

These elements are set to come under increasing public and political scrutiny as procurement and implementation of the scheme move on. But the government has lodged a high court appeal against a ruling that it must publish the "gateway reviews" on the progress of the scheme carried out by the Office of Government Commerce.

Prior Information Notice

As part of pre-procurement activity, the Identity and Passport Service has published a PIN for planned procurement(s) related to the National Identity Scheme in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). This follows on from a PIN published in August 2005 by the Home Office Identity Cards Programme.

A PIN is considered best practice for large public sector projects such as the National Identity Scheme and its purpose is to:

* Forewarn the market that a procurement may begin in the future.

* Alert the market to high-level potential requirements, allowing suppliers to make more informed decisions.

* Facilitate a wider interaction with the market (particularly across the EU).

The PIN is not part of any pre-qualification or selection process for any future procurement. As set out in the Strategic Action Plan for the National Identity Scheme, it is anticipated that subject to approvals, procurement activity will commence in the second quarter of 2007.