Editorial

Verify ‘should be closed down’ – press report

‘Computer Weekly’ claims the government’s project watchdog, the Infrastructure & Projects Authority, says no-one in Whitehall wants to pay for it any more

Posted 6 September 2018 by

A shock press report today claims that the government’s flagship Digital Identity programme, GOV.UK Verify, may be in mortal danger.

Computer Weekly magazine claimed yesterday that the national project watchdog the Infrastructure & Projects Authority conducted a review of the project in July that recommended that Verify should be “terminated”.

The claimed reason: the auditors “found Whitehall departments were reluctant to continue funding the project”.

The story goes on to claim that the Government Digital Service, GDS, is fighting an internal battle to win more money for further development on Verify, and to most crucially to pay external identity providers (IDPs) that underpin the system – but “sources” the site has spoken to say “there is little appetite in the Treasury to provide additional funds for a project that is seen to be failing”.

That could be critical, as the latest set of three-year IDP contracts are due to end this month. Another issue, claims the report, is that GDS has not announced any plans for a new procurement exercise to sign up any more IDPs.

The story goes on to claim that less than expected take up of Verify has impacted the remuneration IDPs have been getting, and that other parts of the government, especially HMRC and DWP, have never bought into Verify and so are continuing to push their own ID schemes (like the Government Gateway) or go their own way:

“Departments have been put off by Verify’s weak record at successfully registering users. The system works by IDPs using publicly available data sources, such as passports, driving licences and credit histories, to prove the user is who they say they are. However, the model has proved unsuccessful, with fewer than 50% of all users being able to set up a Verify identity when they try.”

It doesn’t look as if GDS is giving up just yet, though – with the story again claiming “sources” say it hopes to make a case to continue with Verify, pointing out that it is trying to push it to be the UK’s official entry into a wider EU Digital Identity scheme, eIDAS.

If Verify is cancelled, the write off could be as low as £130m – but this would be a pretty ignominious end to such a flagship project, which began life in 2011.