Spending on the government’s ID cards scheme has hit £72m, despite the fact that procurement on the project has still not begun.

The long-delayed procurement for the £5.3bn ID cards programme stalled again just ahead of Gordon Brown becoming prime minister, with IPS chief executive James Hall admitting: “We're not quite ready yet.”

But figures from the Identity and Passport Service’s annual report and accounts for 2006-07 confirm that spending on the National Identity Scheme (NIS) was £30.9m for the year to 31 March 2007 – up from £27.7m the previous year.

Spending since the inception of the ID cards scheme in 2003-04 to 2005-06 has totalled £41.1m, according to figures issued by then home office minister Joan Ryan in June, bringing the total spend to £72m.

The annual report and accounts break down spending between the passport service and NIS – something ministers have been reluctant to do, citing an overlap in costs of the technology needed to implement biometric passports with that required for ID cards.

Ryan had claimed that “much of the work conducted by Identity and Passport Service cannot be categorised” and around 70% of the total cost of the ID card scheme “would need to be incurred in order to introduce the second biometric passport incorporating fingerprint biometrics”.

But the annual report says: “Two funding streams are available to IPS for these separate functions; passport services are funded by passport fees and the NIS is funded by central Home Office funds. These activities are reported separately within the accounts,” the report says.

It highlights the fact that the £30.9m spend was well short of the initial budget of £55m.

“At the mid-year position this financial plan was revised due to the shift in emphasis to utilising existing public and private sector infrastructure to deliver the NIS, thus reducing planned procurement activity within the year,” the report says.

With the publication of the government’s Strategic Action Plan for the NIS in December 2006 – which set out the policy change from building a new, giant database to using existing resources – activity had “ramped up in the final quarter causing the midyear expenditure assessment to be exceeded”.

Expenditure on NIS has so far gone mainly towards consultants’ fees, with suppliers still waiting for procurement to begin.

The figures released by Ryan in June revealed that of the £41.1m spend up to the end of 2005-06, £31.6m went on consulting and contracting services while £180,000 was spent on polling and opinion research.
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Another £180,000 was spent on specific IT software for the scheme – a figure that excludes standard desktop software.

Ryan put the bill for “future development projects” that could not be divided into NIS and passport service activity at £32.7m for 2006-07, of which £21.4m was spent on consultancy, while IT costs were £1m.

Other Home Office figures show that PA Consulting received a total of £28.4m for work in 2004-05 and 2005-06.