The Home Office will call for bids for the first two pieces of work on the National Identity Scheme in May 2008.
The call for tenders for a biometric database and the application and enrolment operation will be issued as soon as the government finalises the participants in its framework procurement agreement, which is expected by May, a Home Office spokesman said.
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On 19 October, the Identity and Passport Service shortlisted eight firms for a framework agreement to supply the National Identity Scheme infrastructure: Accenture, BAE Systems, Computer Sciences Corporation, EDS, Fujitsu, IBM, Steria and Thales. The Home Office said it might trim this list in December.
Home Office accounts show the government spent £31m on the National Identity Scheme last year. Estimates of the 10-year cost of the scheme and electronic ID cards, which are due to be phased in from 2009, rose £65m in six months, due mainly to VAT.
The government's estimate of the cost of the system was £5.56bn in May 2007. This was later revised to £5.37bn. According to figures presented to parliament on Thursday, the estimated cost has risen to £5.43bn. However, the London School of Economics has put the cost closer to £14.5bn.
The money will come from the Home Office budget, which will rise from £9.8bn to £10.315bn between 2008 and 2010. Spending will be managed by the Identity and Passport Service, with major investment expected to start from mid-2008.