back to article UK.gov admits it was slow to intervene in Verify's abject failure to meet user targets

UK.gov has admitted it was slow to intervene as it failed to meet “overambitious” targets for the adoption of Verify, and has been accused of splashing £154m on creating an open standard for the identity service. Civil servants were hauled in front of the influential Public Accounts Committee this week to discuss a damning …

  1. Trollslayer
    Facepalm

    Yes Minister

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yes_Minister

  2. Valeyard

    government IT

    There is an entire industry just centred around burning through government money, and it whacks you right into the fortune 500

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
      Facepalm

      Re: government IT

      Add to this a government aversion to running anything on open source - the "but who can we take to court if it goes wrong?" question. I sometimes wonder how many times government sues its contractors to save the career of the mid level manager responsible for the disaster in the first place.

      "So you were responsible for spaffing several million pounds on a failed project?"

      "No, we sued the contractors. They settled out of court."

      "Oh well in that case, welcome aboard."

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pushing the boulder up the hill

    GDS did try and push the use of GOV.UK Verify (the actual brand name) outside central government but were stymied because they could not confirm the ongoing costs of operation. They were actuallyu offering a sngle years connection free but then could not say if ongoing use would be £0 £3000 or £30,000 for a single service after 2020.

    Thee are several flaws in both the architectural approach to Verify and the approach to user ID verification.

    Architecturally there is no concept of an enduring token which can be passed between services once a user has been verified, this is a mandatory requirement for Local government where a citizen may engage with dozens of services, you do not want to log in repeatedly when you pay your council tax, reserve a library book and report a pothole, you expect this to be a single session.

    Secondly the verification approach is based on an active financial footprint, a large proportion of the people engaging with local and central government don't have this footprint, no mortgage, no formal loans, no phone contract and no passport or driving license pretty much rule you out from a successful ID verification. the irony of this approach is that the majority of people who fail verification for Verify have had to provide proof of Identity to either their local council (to obtain housing / housing benefit) or to central government to obtain disability benefits, unemployment benefits or pensions. I know that GDS were looking at how to interface with the DWP registers and had run a pilot looking at the use of micro-sources of verification data with local housing departments but this took place very late in the day.

    GDS also did not understand the key difference between implementing services at a local level and for central government departments. Legislation for local services always has some grey areas where the detail is filled in by local councils based on their political make up and strategic objectives, there is also a huge difference in the approach to risk management across councils. I spent a year banging my head against that particular wall before they had there Damascus moment. GDS were trying to mandate an approach to a customer journey which would work for a London borough which would jut not work in a rural shire county.

    GDS were very late engaging with software vendors to local government. at a time where every vendor is trying to push for their portal to be used as an entry to services what councils actually need is a way to present access to services using a single log in and a consistent UI but have several levels of authentication. You do not need the same level of confidence in a users ID to report a pot hole as you do when enquiring into your parent or child social care, education of health services but you need to retain the ID token as the conversation moves across services and systems.

    The use of a single portal which was aware of the level of confidence of the ID being used then using open API's to engage with other services could result in a huge acceleration of the take up of digital services. This is what GDS should be driving but I think it fell into the 'too hard' bin when they were trying to capture the big whales of HMRC and DWP.

    The final nail in the verify coffin was the absolute ban on even thinking about a national ID card. Scotland has a very similar system to Verify which works exceedingly well and the Scottish government Id is used to access the majoritypublic run services. This reflects the difference in culture, in Scotland citizens generally believe that the government is on their side and looking out for them, in the rest of the UK the government is viewed with suspicion.

    AC as I would like to work in the area again at some point.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Pushing the boulder up the hill

      ... in the rest of the UK the Conservative government is viewed with suspicion. - there, fixed it for you. - I would use the Joke Icon except that these days it's not funny any longer.

      The universal hatred/fear of an ID card in England seems totally at odds with the current push to remove all "illegal aliens" (not sure if that's a Trump phrase or a May phrase - maybe both?) from the UK ... essentially it seems as though the ideal solution that the UK would actually be comfortable with would be to only require ID's for non-citizens and the poor.

      1. eclairz

        Re: Pushing the boulder up the hill

        I think Labour tried to push ID cards also during the Blair era, but that also failed, I think generally both Labour and Conservatives weren't to be trusted.

      2. m0rt

        Re: Pushing the boulder up the hill

        "in the rest of the UK the Conservative government is viewed with suspicion"

        No. The *government* is viewed with suspicion, regardless of party. Both those who are into conspiracies and those who believe the government, whoever is in power, is hamstrung by a bloated and incapable civil service which would result in mission creep, lost data, service provided by the lowest bidder, etc.

        In any industry or walk of life, when the end recipient of a service is made the focus, the entire flow and end result are to that recipients interest and it works. This is not how the populace feel about the encumbent party because ultimately they renege on promises and change the goalposts which means the end result rarely is what was promised. There is an obvious glaring example of this currently.

        This won't change without a massive paradigm shift and a clear set of guidelines signed up to statin what government should and shouldn't do. Which we kind of thought existed but then they get ignored.

      3. Irongut

        Re: Pushing the boulder up the hill

        "... in the rest of the UK the Conservative government is viewed with suspicion. "

        And in Scotland we love the Pole Tax pushing Thatcherite bastards?

        Fixed isnae what I'd call yer first sentence laddie.

        1. m0rt

          Re: Pushing the boulder up the hill

          "And in Scotland we love the Pole Tax pushing Thatcherite bastards?"

          They are taxing the Polish now? Double bastards....

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Pushing the boulder up the hill

          "And in Scotland we love the Pole Tax pushing Thatcherite bastards?

          Fixed isnae what I'd call yer first sentence laddie."

          Maybe we should take a poll on that?

      4. MonkeyCee

        Re: Pushing the boulder up the hill

        "The universal hatred/fear of an ID card in England"

        Is why they have been introduced by the back door.

        You can walk down the street without ID, as long as your not suspicious enough to be questioned.

        If you drive, or are in a vehicle stopped by the police, you can be required to prove your identity.

        If you want to buy age restricted items, ie drink or smoke, you need ID.

        If you are employed, rent a property, open a bank account or register at a surgery, then you need ID.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pushing the boulder up the hill

        The problem with issuing ID cards is simply what do you do about the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people here illegally? If the IDC was to be used to show entitlement to public services, what would be the consequence of suddenly denying them to so many? The government concluded that the only answer would be to grant an amnesty to all illegals currently in the country. Although practical and of very little real impact to the public finances, even Brown’s labour government could see this would be politically toxic and so the IDC idea was abandoned - again.

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Pushing the boulder up the hill

      Another problem, particularly relevant to me right now, is that it seems to be designed for individuals. Suppose you are a company with a chain of shops around the country, and you need to set up a payment run for all the council tax payments that are due on 1st April. Right now we are still having to contact all the store managers to tell them to look out for the council tax bill and scan/email it to us. Then when we receive it, we tick it off on an Excel list. And of course some shops have two bills because it is two buildings with the wall knocked through to make a bigger shop. And some get a separate bill for the Buisiness Improvement District.

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