Two firms shortlisted for the Home Office's £5.4bn ID card project have dropped out of the bidding to run the National Identity Scheme (NIS) framework procurement programme.
Systems integration firms Accenture and BAE Systems pulled out, leaving Computer Sciences Corporation, EDS, Fujitsu, IBM, Steria, and Thales in the running for contracts under the framework programme. The first two parcels of work are expected to be the biometric database and application and enrolment operation.
BAE Systems said in a statement it had withdrawn because its bid would not contain every element necessary to deliver to the customer's requirement. "We continue to monitor the programme with interest."
An Accenture spokesman said the firm had decided not to bid for the framework business. "However, we remain committed to our work in UK government. We are working in six major government departments delivering a number of successful and key programmes," she said.
This includes the Department of Work & Pensions' CIS, a key building block for NIS, as well as NHS PACS and the e-Borders programme where Accenture is responsible for training end users of the system and helping to measure the overall business benefits of the e-Borders programme.
Some reports suggested that the two drop-outs might have been unhappy with the initial volumes planned for the roll-out as well as signs in leaked documents that the main roll-out would start in 2012, two years later than first indicated.
The government's initial plan to issue electronic ID cards to British subjects would have coincided with the April 2010 deadline set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to issue only machine readable travel documents that contain digitised fingerprints and facial images.
If the UK ID card meets ICAO standards, the cardholder could use it as a travel document throughout Europe without needing a separate passport, the Home Office has confirmed.
The UK ID card would carry the same personal information on its face as the information on the personal details page of the present passport, such as name, date and place of birth, gender, and photograph of the holder. In future, both card and passport would also carry the same digitised facial image and fingerprints of the owner.
A spokesman said 80% of Britons have a passport, but relatively few travel outside Europe. The Home Office intends to offer the e-ID card when citizens apply for or renew their passports. The UK introduced passports that contain biometric details in 2006, and the Home Office issues six million a year.
The Home Office spokesman said the ID card will also have a "chip and PIN" application that could let the cardholder authenticate electronic transactions.