Potential identity assurance suppliers receive invitation to tender

Government says service ‘closer to market’ after a selection of suppliers pass pre-qualification questionnaire stage

The government has issued a selection of suppliers with invitation to tender (ITT) documents for its £25m identity assurance programme.

In a blog post on the Government Digital Service site, the Cabinet Office’s identity assurance team said the programme had moved a step closer to market after a selection of possible suppliers passed the pre-qualification questionnaire part of the procurement and got to the ITT stage.

“Issuing the ITT is a major step forward as it is the first time that the initial requirements for a cross-government approach to ID assurance have been set out in a departmental procurement for multiple suppliers,” says the blog post.

“It is a clear indication to prospective suppliers that government has a real proposition for developing a market of ID providers. It will also provide a working platform for further refinement of the ID provider service, based on real user experience of a flagship government service.”

According to the post, the tendering process will run for several weeks and is expected to report successful bidders in September.

The identity assurance service will be a market of competing private sector identity providers that will sell ID assurance services to the public sector, allowing organisations to identify who they are dealing with during government transactions.

It will heavily support the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) universal credit programme and the personal independence payment, which is to replace its current benefit system in 2013.

The procurement process has had some difficulties since the tender for identity assurance was first issued at the beginning December 2011 by the DWP. The tender was recalled a few weeks later at the end of December, and then reissued again in March of this year with some changes.

Talking to Guardian Government Computing at the time, Mike Bracken, the government’s executive director for digital, said that a revised strategy for identity services was needed to ensure it was a cross-government tender rather than one that would have only benefited a single department.

Chris Pennell, principal analyst at public sector market intelligence firm Kable, believes that without a standard form of identity assurance, the benefits of the government’s digital by default agenda and website consolidation exercises cannot be realised.

“This is not to advocate a big bang approach, but you do get the feeling that the programme is progressing in fits and starts,” he said. “It’s likely that the ITT includes the cast of usual suspects, but they will be joined by smaller start-ups, which have developed intellectual property around personal data storage and vendor relationship management tools.”

Speaking about identity assurance at an industry event yesterday, Phil Pavitt, chief information officer at HMRC, said that the government needed to implement the service as quickly as possible to ensure citizens received a “frictionless” service.

“You should be able to go in, access services and move sideways across departments. That’s a massive challenge that faces us,” he said, according to Computerworld UK.

This article is published by Guardian Professional. For weekly updates on news, debate and best practice on public sector IT, join the Guardian Government Computing network here.

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