ID card gateway reviews must be published, rules tribunal

An information tribunal has ruled the government must publish two gateway reviews on the progress of the ID card project.

An information tribunal has ruled the government must publish two gateway reviews on the progress of the ID card project.

The tribunal upheld a decision by the information commissioner in July 2006 that the information must be released, and the reviews must now be published within 28 days.

No gateway reviews have ever been published before. The reviews are government reports on the progress of large projects. They are carried out at various important stages through the life of a programme and can recommend the project be abandoned.

The Office of Government Commerce may appeal, which will further delay the publication of the reports.

The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) maintained that publication of reports would "harm the contribution of the gateway process" to other similar projects. It said there was a public interest in maintaining the integrity of the gateway process.

But the tribunal said: "The tribunal, with respect to the OGC's approach, regards its approach as being too rigid and thus not conducive to a realistic assessment of the competing public interests. A project such as the ID cards scheme has been a very high-profile matter of overwhelming concern to the public from the moment it was first addressed by government."

It added the public interest would be served by the public knowing how a project has been and is being implemented.

The OGC also said the gateway process depends on the candour of the officials involved, and that this might be diminished by the publication of the reports.

But the tribunal said it was "not satisfied that this fear has been made out by the evidence, which strongly suggests that the risk even now continues to be minimal."

The tribunal's report also pointed out the importance of increasing the public's confidence in the government's ability to implement an IT project with competence.

"There is or has been and indeed remains a perception that central government does not have a particularly good track record with regard to IT projects. In the tribunal's view, disclosure of the requested information would clearly add to the public's knowledge in this respect and therefore to the public interest which sought to ensure that schemes as complex albeit as sensitive as the ID cards scheme were properly scrutinised and implemented."

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