The government has issued a tender to run a procurement framework for the National Identity Register and the related national ID card and biometric passport, known collectively as the National Identity Scheme (NIS).
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Initial bids to manage the procurement programme are expected to come in at up to £500m. Speaking exclusively to Computer Weekly, Passport Service CEO, James Hall, stood by previous estimates that the entire project will cost £5.5bn.
Researchers at the London School of Economics have said it will cost at least double this.
A primary reason for pursuing the project is to fight fraud. Sources close to the government have said taxpayers are defrauded by up to £70bn a year.
Hall declined to comment on the estimates, but acknowledged that billions are at stake.
Hall said the NIS would help to reduce fraud and identity theft in both public and private sectors. The benefit to UK organisations would be “several billion pounds a year, once fully rolled-out”, he added.
The scheme will use biographic information as well as face and fingerprint data. This will bring the UK in line with the rest of the European Union by 2009, Hall said.
Hall said citizens’ identities would be checked against the Department for Work and Pensions database, and against other databases held by police and intelligence services. It will also check the data against the information held by the Equifax credit vetting agency.
The DWP customer database will be the primary source of information for the proposed NIS, said Hall. However, last month the National Audit Office reported that the DWP suffered fraud and error worth an estimated £2.5bn in 2006.
Hall said the DWP had done a lot to cleanse its data, and he expected the NIS programme to help it do even more.
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