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March 5, 2019

NAO in Damning Report on £212m Gov’t ID Scheme

"ID verification success rate of 48 percent."

By CBR Staff Writer

Updated 17:00 with comment from the Cabinet Office

An ambitious government-wide identity verification service, Verify, is failing to deliver claimed benefits, with uptake lagging and desperately poor performance meaning departments will have to spend tens of millions on manual verifications, according to a a damning report from the National Audit Office.

The Verify ID scheme was launched by the Government Digital Service (GDS) in 2016. The project – forecast to cost £212 million – was meant to become the default way for people to prove their identity for online government services. It was meant to enroll 25 million users by 2020. It has managed only 3.6 million so far.

The government has slashed its estimates for Verify’s financial benefits by 75 percent as a result, saying net savings over four years will be £217 million, not £873 million. With the NAO warning that manual workarounds will cost £40 million for the Department of Work and Pensions alone, the result could be a net loss to the taxpayer.

The GDS said in 2016 that it expected 46 government service to be connected to the Verify platform by 2020. Only 19 government service currently use the ID system.

(The NAO names seven private sector providers as having been involved in delivering the project: Barclays, Digidentity, Experian, Post Office, secureidentity/Morpho, along with Royal Mail and CitizenSafe/GBG. The latter two are leaving the project.)

Verify ID

Image Source: NAO

Verify ID Scheme Costs Soaring

GDS have said they have an ID verification success rate of 48 percent, a rate that was supposed to be at 90 percent by now.

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The verification success rate measures how many people have successfully signed up for Verify in a single attempt out of all those who try. Those that have made it past this process now have their ID confirmed by a commercial identity provider.

The NAO added: “The verification success rate also does not indicate whether people are able to access the government services they were attempting to use in the first place. This is because the measure effectively stops counting once an individual’s identity is successfully verified. It does not consider whether that individual can actually gain access to the service they want to use.”

Looking at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) they found that while 38 percent of people could sign up for a Verify account, over eight percent of them were found to have submitted information that did not match the DVLA databases, which resulted in the user not being able to access DVLA services.

Verify Expected to Cost £212 million but…

GDS have stated that the programme should only cost £212 million upon completion. Yet as the NAO have found the low level of successful online verification is driving up costs. The report notes that: “Only 38% of Universal Credit claimants can successfully verify their identity online.”

The Department for Work & Pensions was planning to rely on the Verify service to process 90 percent of claimants. That department now expects to have to spend £40 million over the next ten years manually verifying people’s identities.

Verify

Image Source: NAO

The NAO notes that the benefits of the project have been affected by the low adoption: “A significant proportion of Verify’s expected financial benefits come from avoided building costs, spending that departments would otherwise have needed to incur to build or procure an alternative identity verification system.”

Government Looks to Private Sector to Take Responsibility

In 2018 the government announced it would stop funding the ID system in March 2020. The GDS has confirmed that five commercial identity providers will continue to operate the system. After March 2020 GDS is expecting the private sector to take over Verify.

The NAO warned: “One possibility is that departments would procure identity verification services directly from the market of private sector providers. Departments currently do not pay their full usage costs for Verify but would have to under a market-based model.”

“There is consequently a risk that the market price for identity verification services could be unaffordable for government departments using Verify,” the NAO have warned.

It concluded: “It is difficult to conclude that successive decisions to continue with Verify have been sufficiently justified.”

The Cabinet Office disagrees. A government spokesman emailed Computer Business Review to say: “Verify is saving taxpayers money and is a world-leading project in its field. The NAO report reflects that it has been a challenging project – but challenges like these are to be expected when the Government is working at the forefront of new technology.”

“We now believe that Verify is at a point where it can be taken forward by the private sector to provide a single source for people to confirm their identities online. This will see the government’s investment in the project cut back as the private sector takes it forward. This ensures Verify will continue to enable people to access services easily online, while protecting them from organised crime, identity fraud, and other malicious online activity.”

(Of the invoices that the the Cabinet Office has for departments’ use of Verify on behalf of GDS, only one department (HMRC) has paid, the NAO notes. Payments of £2 million from the departments including the DWP, DVLA, Defra and BEIS are due. “So far, no payment has been received. It is not clear why these invoices have remained unpaid, as the Cabinet Office told us it received no responses from the departments and agencies concerned after issuing the invoices.”

See Also: Making Tax Digital Programme: One Month to Go, One Million Businesses Yet to Sign Up

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