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ID Card costs escape scrutiny

Dobson amendment lets govt. off hook

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Burnham said £584m would be required over 10 years to issue the cards, but unspecified costs were numerous and have been estimated at between £6bn and £20bn. "I rather suspect that the United States Congress got more candour out of the Pentagon on the projected costs of the stealth bomber than then we are getting out of the government on costs of this particular IT project," shadow minister for Home Affairs Edward Garnier said.

But no one outdid Dobson in the use of hyperbole: "The IT systems companies...appear to be competing for the title of intergalactic rip off IT merchant of the decade," he said in defence of greater scrutiny of their work and charges.

"[They] have ripped off the public sector and the private sector time and again through their negligence, incompetence and stupidity," he said, using EDS and Siemens as examples.

He joked on, but serious points were being made elsewhere in the House. Garnier referred to an Auditor General report on a £44m discrepancy in Home Office accounts that was caused by a bodged IT implementation.

Not only was data handled sloppily, but there were security lapses that included the ability of unauthorised personnel to access sensitive data, and a lack of training.

"If that's what the Auditor General says about this department's accounts, it's perhaps not the least bit surprising that other departments have not found it convenient to hand over...their assessments of their costs, their workings, their accounting practices in relation to [the identity card system]," he said.

The government is ultimately responsible for failures of this kind, and is often to blame. Labour MP for Derbyshire South Mark Todd said his access to the early stage ID card planning made him fear it was turning into a "complex and poor specification...that is the route of failed IT projects."

Yet, industry should share the blame if the right advice is either not given or heard. ®

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