Friday, August 22, 2008

Data Loss Sparks Fresh ID Card Fears

Fresh concerns have been raised over the government's controversial ID cards after it emerged the firm in the memory stick shambles is at the centre of the £20 billion home office scheme. 

The home office has suspend its three-year contract with PA Consulting following the loss of a memory stick containing data on 84,000 criminals.

PA Consulting was contracted by the home office last year to track offenders through the criminal justice 'JTrack' system. 

The data was not encrypted and contained names, birth dates, prison release dates and home detention curfew dates.

PA Consulting Group was awarded a development contract for the ID cards said to be worth £10 million in 2004, under the then home secretary, David Blunkett.

The same company was used by the government to set up the chaotic Criminal Records Bureau IT project.

The ID card scheme is coordinated by the Whitehall & Industry Group (WIG) which includes 39 civil servants, and 40 consultants from PA Consulting, the government's private sector 'development partner', and three on secondment from the passport service, the metropolitan police and a management consultant company.

The Telegraph has revealed that PA Consulting has been paid more than £240 million for government contracts in recent years.

This includes £100 million by the home office for the ID scheme and other work and £35 million to work on new biometric visas for the foreign office.

The Telegraph report adds: "Between 2004 and 2007 the company also picked up at least £31m from the Department for Work and Pensions, £20m from the Department for Communities and Local Government, £17m from the Ministry of Defence, £16m from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, £9m from the Department for Education and its successors and £3.5m from the Cabinet Office."

Announcing an inquiry, the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said the data stick loss was "completely unsatisfactory" and the home office had suspended its contract for the company to run the JTrack scheme. 

Conservatives have accused ministers of a "massive failure of duty", accusing them of attempting to shift the blame and say the government must urgently examine the implications of the latest fiasco for the £20 bilion ID card project.

The loss of the memory stick is the latest in a string of data blunders by government departments who have awarded massive contracts to private IT firms. 

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