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Verify deemed ‘unachievable’ by major government projects review

Issues around the digital identity project and a major compliance project led by the Ministry of Justice are impossible to solve, according to the Infrastructure and Projects Authority

The government's flagship identity service Verify has been deemed “unachievable” by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) in its annual report of high-profile government projects.

The document covers 130 of the most complex and high-risk projects under the Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP). One of the four categories the projects fall under is IT, with 27 projects valued at £10bn.

Verify has been flagged “red” in the report, as has as the Transforming Compliance Enforcement Programme (TCEP) project led by the Ministry of Justice, which aims to improve the enforcement of criminal fines with automation and data-led systems.

According to the IPA, the successful delivery of these projects is being hampered by major issues around project definition, schedule, budget, quality and delivery of benefits.

These issues, according to the report, are currently impossible to manage or solve, and projects may require rescoping or a complete reassessment of their overall feasibility. The latest ratings come from project assessments conducted in September 2018.

The new findings follow recent criticisms made by MPs in relation to the programme. According to the Public Accounts Committee, Verify has “failed its users” and has not delivered value for money, and its leaders have not accepted “proper accountability” for the project’s “catalogue of problems”.

According to IPA interim chief executive Matthew Vickerstaff, some of the initiatives under the list of key government projects are “undoubtedly challenging”.

“We do not shy away from these challenges, but it is important to remember that these are the most complex and innovative projects, not just in the UK, but often in the world”
Matthew Vickerstaff, IPA

“We do not shy away from these challenges, but it is important to remember that these are the most complex and innovative projects, not just in the UK, but often in the world,” he added.

Major IT projects marked “amber/red” include the smart metering implementation programme, projects around the development of the UK’s 5G ecosystem and initiatives around the Emergency Services Network (ESN).

On the other hand, projects such as the UnITy project, the IT transformation initiative currently ongoing at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, are on the less worrying end of the spectrum, and marked “amber”, which means successful delivery looks feasible even though the IPA review detected “significant issues”.

Projects that have received positive reviews include the Home Office Biometrics Programme and the NHS e-Referral Service, of which successful delivery appears likely, according to the IPA report.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Verify is a world-leading example of how to enable people to use services securely online. This has been a challenging project - but challenges like these are to be expected when the government is working at the forefront of new technology. Verify is now at a point where it can be taken forward by the private sector, so people will be able to safely and securely access both private and public online services.”

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