£10.8 million written off with e-passport system

British Passport

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) has revealed it is abandoning its second-generation electronic passport application (EPA2) service, to the tune of 10.8 million in write-offs.

The write-off was outlined in the IPS annual report published today. It also said the IPS management board took the decision to cancel the project back in March.

Nonetheless, the 10.8-million asset write-off, followed by reverting to the existing EPA system and abandoning the two year old EPA2 project were still thought to be less costly than any further investment to resolve technical glitches that saw it close after only weeks of going live.

"Any further investment in EPA2 would have had a limited period in which to deliver the expected re-tendering of the contract to support operational systems from 2009," said the IPS in its report.

EPA2 was designed to upgrade the existing EPA service to allow applicants to complete forms and payments online. But forms still needed to be printed and sent to the IPS through the post.

Some 18,000 applicants experienced long delays in processing passport applications through the Siemens Business Services system in the weeks it was operational. And the IPS said it was working to overcome technical problems with the system throughout 2006 and 2007.

The IPS said the write-off comprised 5.5 million of assets in 2006 to 2007 and 5.3 million in 2007 to 2008. But it added that it had reverted to a more limited programme of enhancements to live first generation systems where, after a full review of all costs was undertaken, suitable hardware and software was also re-used.

Applicants currently have the option of completing online forms. But the current systems means forms are returned to the applicant for them to sign.

The agency added that it has made provision to develop its online passport applications services in the contract it is procuring for the National Identity Scheme.

And, in the Gershon spirit of shared services, it also said it would using other government departments' databases staring with the customer information management systems of the Department of Work and Pensions to cross-reference potentially fraudulent applications.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.