Key digital programme ‘underperforming’

9 May 19

The government’s flagship digital programme has not delivered value for money and is missing key targets.

Verify, a programme enabling people to securely access online government services, has missed key performance targets, according to the Public Accounts Committee.

About 25 million people were projected to use the programme by 2020, but only 3.9 million people were doing so as of March 2019 – less than one sixth of the target set by the Government Digital Service.

The GDS also predicted that the programme – launched in 2016 – would be used by 46 government services by March 2018, but by March this year only 10 services were using it to verify people’s identities.

The report said: “The programme has not delivered value for money and members of the public using the system have been hampered by a catalogue of problems, including difficulty signing up and accessing multiple government services.”

An estimated £2.5bn worth of expected benefit was originally outlined for the project over a 10-year period, but GDS has since lowered this to £366m.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “Key government departments do not want to use the system and members of the public are facing problems signing up.

“Once again, the government has not delivered on a project that was over-ambitious from the start. this is a verdict that the PAC are making all too often on large government projects.”

In October 2018 the Cabinet Office announced that government funding for the programme would stop in March 2020 after which point GDS intends to outsource the service to the private sector.

But Hillier said: “Before then, it has a duty to get this programme working properly for existing users, such as people claiming universal credit, and set out a plan of action when public funding ends.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The PAC report reflects that 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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