The ID card scheme lacks “robust” governance and design, according to government advisers of the project.

Clear requirements for IT systems have yet to be set in stone, for the project which is now estimated to cost £4.7bn, according to the ‘Independent Scheme Assurance Panel Report for 2007’.

The news comes even though key IT suppliers were shortlisted last October.

While flexibility on the project was important, it “does not excuse the programme from the need to adequately detail the requirements for ICT systems, processes and operations”, the report warned. This was crucial for the programme to be delivered on time, it said.

The ISAP panel consists of senior IT experts including high profile chief information officers in industry, and was formed in 2005 after a report by the Biometrics Assurance Group said the scheme needed independent monitoring.

In the report, the panel said the government should focus on putting in place “a robust and transparent operational data governance regime and a clear data architecture”. It said these must recognise “the value of data and the risks associated with inappropriate access” to it.

It criticised the project for being led by “infrastructure demands”, rather than usage and benefits. Plans to use the Department for Work and Pensions Oracle-based Customer Information System, it said, could focus attention on benefits but also bring integration complexity.

Delivery priorities were also questioned, and the report said they would be clearer “if backed up by a simple statement of the rationale for each of the scheme’s key design decisions”.

Data governance standards and management needed to be addressed, and go beyond “simple data security”, it warned.

In a damning statement on planning by the project's managers, the report advised: “The panel suggest the programme should verify that it has the capability to manage integration, and that the complexity of integrating increasingly interdependent systems across government is considered.”

It said there needed to be “clarity around the interface protocols between the scheme and existing systems”, and reminded the government that the integration remained its responsibility, not that of suppliers.

It must be clear who is responsible for the integrity of data handling, it said, advising good governance to be “designed in” to processes and teams of people, as well as the technology. Error detection and correction were vital.

Phil Booth, national co-ordinator at the NO2ID campaign, which called the scheme “chaos”, slammed the government over progress. "No specification, no departmental buy-in, no rationale for key design decisions and no ministerial control. This is official confirmation that the Identity and Passport Service is a runaway train.”

Yesterday, the government also published its own cost estimates for the scheme, in which it officially knocked nearly £1 billion off costs, meaning the scheme would cost £4.7 billion at current estimates. But it was heavily criticised for changing the method by which it counts costs and extending the role of the private sector in assuming those costs.

In March, the government slowed down its plans for the scheme, cancelling the requirement for citizens to have ID cards, despite that obligation under plans by former prime minister Tony Blair. But the National Identity Register, which will contain personal details on citizens, will remain.

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