DWP, the Department for Work and Pensions, is by far the biggest spender in government, having clocked up £242.3 billion in 2011-12, see HM Treasury's Public Spending Statistics July 2012 (p.53), including £93 billion on pensions.
The Potential Provider shall complete Phase 1 by 31 December 2012
On 1 March 2012 GDS, the Government Digital Service, wrote: "Today the cross-Government Identity Assurance programme sanctioned DWP to publish a tender to procure Identity services for all of Government", see Identity: One small step for all of Government.
Somehow DWP put up with this condescension. GDS would be well-advised not to try it on with our next biggest spender, the Department of Health, £121.3 billion.
GDS went on in their blog post of last March to refer to the procurement of identity assurance services, needed by DWP for their Universal Credit initiative: "The initial DWP services will be required to provide identity assurance for approximately 21 000 000 claimants ... To support the rollout of universal credit and personal independence payments, identity assurance suppliers will be selected in summer 2012 and systems will need to be fully operational from spring 2013".
Let's say that GDS mean that identity assurance services "will need to be fully operational" on or before 22 June 2013.
Question – how did GDS come up with that timetable?
Before you answer, consider – there must have been some reasoning behind GDS's choice of date. They must have had some idea which suppliers will be involved and how they will satisfy DWP's needs.
Yesterday, 10 December 2012, GDS published the details of an identity assurance contract they put out for tender and which they have now awarded. This contract is for qualitative research into the way people could use multiple identity providers to access public services.
Almost every sentence in GDS's invitation to tender (ITT) is contentious. But let's content ourselves with just one, para.4.2.4, the opening sentence of this post: "The Potential Provider shall complete Phase 1 by 31 December 2012".
This is fundamental research for the Identity Assurance Programme. It won't be finished until 31 December 2012. GDS have the option to extend it by up to three months. 31 March 2013. And then there's Phase 2.
The chances of DWP getting its identity assurance services before 22 June 2013? Nil.
GDS's ITT wasn't even completed until 12 November 2012, eight months after they sanctioned DWP's ITT. GDS must have known then that their timetable is a fantasy.
Meanwhile there are 21 million potential claimants out there, waiting for GDS, whose priorities are clearly elsewhere.
If anybody asks you what "misfeasance" means, misfeasance in Whitehall, just point them at GDS.
(Hat tip: Toby Stevens)