The London School of Economics has called for an independent review of the government's ID cards scheme, after it identified "discrepancies" in the government's latest £5.31bn cost estimates for the programme.
The LSE said that the credibility of the government's cost estimates had been undermined by earlier errors, a failure to assess the wider costs of ID cards across Whitehall, and the lack of a full assessment of the impact of the project's redesign.
The LSE's Analysis of Home Office Costs Report, published this month, questions why the costs of the scheme have risen by up to £800m, despite plans announced in December last year to simplify the project.
The simplifications involved using existing government databases, and dropping plans to take iris readings of the UK population.
"The new strategic action plan should have reduced costs, but it does not seem to have done so. That just does not make any sense," said Edgar Whitley, one of the report's authors.
The LSE said that the Home Office had failed to take into account the potential complications of its simplified ID cards scheme.
Under the revised programme the Home Office will store details of the population on an existing Department for Works and Pensions Customer Information System (CIS) database, rather than build a dedicated population register from scratch.
However, Whitley said that the changes might require the DWP to renegotiate contracts with existing IT suppliers at extra expense.
The changes are also likely to place loads on the CIS database that go beyond its original design specification, and extra security would need to be built in to protect sensitive population data.
"There are all sorts of complications that are likely to arise. There is also the real issue that security was not built into that system from the beginning. You are adding on security, which is a dangerous way of doing things," Whitley said.
The Home Office said, "We are introducing the scheme incrementally, building on existing programmes. Once in operation the scheme will essentially be self-financing through fee income."
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