Editorial

Government responds to highly critical GOV.UK Verify audit

‘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,’ GDS tells us

Posted 7 March 2019 by

The country’s official spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, said on Tuesday that the performance of GOV.UK Verify has consistently been below the standards set out in each of its business cases, has fallen well short of its target of 25 million users by 2020 – and as a result, the Government has had to lower its estimates for the scheme’s financial benefits by a massive 75%.

But what does Government itself feel about the verdict? We asked the main body behind the national ID scheme, the Government Digital Service, and we found that it’s not as crushed by the assessment as you might think:

“Verify is saving taxpayers money and is a world-leading project in its field,” we were told in an official statement.

“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.”

We also reached out to a key Whitehall user of Verify, the Department of Work and Pensions – probably its biggest. Has it lost faith with the scheme? It told us that:

“It is only right we provide the easiest and most secure digital services for our claimants, and we will continue to promote this to raise awareness and encourage take up. For those who would prefer to do this face to face in a Jobcentre that option continues to remain open. We’re also considering a range of other identity verification options which are easy to use and cost-effective for the department.”

It also noted that “the £40m figure over the next ten years is if we ‘do nothing’ and Verify success rates remain the same” – but its press office pointed out to Think Digital Partners that, “We are working hard to offer other products in this area and Verify only forms part of the full approach agreed with the Government Digital Service.”

Seems like Government is taking this one on the chin… what do you think is the best way of assessing the impact – and future? – of Verify? Join in our lively Twitter debate @Thinkdigicon.