back to article UK.gov's Verify has 'significantly' missed every target, groans spending watchdog

The full extent of how far short the UK government's expensive, digital-first identity assurance scheme has fallen was revealed today by a brutal report on Verify by the country's spending watchdog. Flatline blip on a medical heart monitor UK.gov withdraws life support from flagship digital identity system READ MORE Among …

  1. Just a geek
    FAIL

    "it isn't clear what will happen to DWP's use of the system after April 2020, which is when the government will farm Verify out to the private sector"

    I thought that would have been obvious? It'll be hacked, they'll be a mass data leak. The company concerned will talk about "how seriously" they take security and the government will kick off another flagship project and we'll be back here again in 2-5 years time depending on how long they can drag out the procurement process.

    1. SonOfDilbert
      Unhappy

      Unfortunately, I fear that your cynicism is justified. :[

      1. m4r35n357

        Cynicism?

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Cynicism?

          It's what inexperienced people call what we would call realism..

  2. Warm Braw Silver badge

    The default way for people to prove their identity

    For most government services, they really only need to know who you are if they're giving you money. - for that, these days, they require you to have a bank account.- or you're giving them money. Either way, the bank/payment processor have already done an identity check. For anything else (like checking your tax bill or NI contributions) they would historically simply have written to you, so why they suddenly need documentation they have never previously required is beyond me. Maybe we should just take the Norwegian approach and make everyone's tax returns public.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: The default way for people to prove their identity

      That would also come with big savings.

      Make access to benefits dependent on having a bank account to prove your id.

      Banks don't want to deal with people who have no money and live in areas where nobody has any money.

      Huge savings on benefits

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: The default way for people to prove their identity

        I'm sure the banks would be willing to help out like that. After all, the country needs to start rebuilding its cash reserves so that we'll be ready to give all our money to the banks the next time they fall for a foreign investment scam.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I think you spelt

          "Next time they setup a foreign investment scam, then get caught."

          As they gave as much as they got!

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The default way for people to prove their identity

        "Banks don't want to deal with people who have no money and live in areas where nobody has any money."

        People, even with money, don't like having no banks where they live. It hasn't stopped the banks closing branches.

    2. F0rdPrefect

      Re: The default way for people to prove their identity

      "They really only need to know who you are if they're giving you money. - for that, these days, they require you to have a bank account"

      Well HMRC sent me a cheque last month, for a VAT refund, even though they have my bank account details so that they can DD VAT when I owe them, so not always.

    3. Glenn Booth

      Re: The default way for people to prove their identity

      It's kind of a good thing if they get your ID correct when they're trying to deport you as well.

  3. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    Estonia

    The Estonians seem to have a workable system. Perhaps we should outsource it to them.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: Estonia

      ...or take out a license on the New Zealand system which, IME works rather well, and is already an English language implementation.

      On second thoughts, DON'T! The moment a working system gets into UK Civil Service hands the Not Made Here syndrome will kick in and the formerly working package would be 'modified', AKA fscked over, until it becomes HMG-certified junk. Followed by promotions and bonuses for all concerned.

      1. Disgusted of Cheltenham

        Re: Estonia

        The Estonians have kindly provided their service to anyone else who wants it, and in English...

        https://e-resident.gov.ee/

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Estonia

      Perhaps, but also remember that Estonia's total population is about 1/10 of London, so scaling and the legacy of UK gov bureaucracy are major issues.

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: Estonia

        This is true, but look at Universal Credit.

        Around the same number as the population is on it. One system works well, the other despite its limited field of application is the subject of a review by Lord Fuster-Cluck. I suspect the Estonians could do a better job of scaling, provided the UK bureaucracy was treated the way the Government treats benefit claimants.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Estonia

          I thought part of the point of Universal Credit was that it withheld payments? Thus the government has to shell out less, and claimants are 'encouraged' to find an alternate source of income for such luxuries as food and rent.

          After all, the government has repeatedly said that the system is on track and they're hoping to roll it out country-wide, despite it being responsible for people dying. Why do that if it's not working as intended?

    3. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Estonia

      ...and the Elbonians have a world-class system, and are keen to offer outsourcing services

      1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

        Re: Estonia

        Unfortunately the UK is rapidly morphing into Elbonia

  4. jonha
    FAIL

    What a surprise!

    A few years ago I had big BIG trouble with the HMRC SA login (don't get me started on that abomination...!) and decided to try Verify. Luckily this was months before the Jan, 31 deadline so I had enough time to work my way through this thing... you'll need it if you succeed at all. A few thousand lost hairs later and surrounded by heaps of paper files I not even knew I had (my wife knew, phew!) I had a Verify account.

    The people who designed this system live on another planet where, among other things, the word world-class doesn't mean what it means on earth.

    1. Jonathon Green

      Re: What a surprise!

      Third world class?

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: What a surprise!

      For the people who designed the system, registering is easy - you just get one of your personal secretaries to do it ... they don't understand why anyone would have problems documenting where they lived 10 tears ago (typo sic).

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: What a surprise!

        "For the people who designed the system, registering is easy"

        They are born administrators who horde, classify and can instantly lay their hands on any piece of paper they need. Archaeologists classify people according to their material culture. These people are the Chitty People.

    3. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: What a surprise!

      Verif (my arse) I regret to say that you have one fellow sufferer here - never again

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They make Verify hard to use

    When I wanted to check some pension details, the gov.uk website offered me the choice of signing in with Government Gateway, Verify, or using an ID from a German scheme. Of them all, government gateway was by far the easiest to set up, just the usual website signup system with some extra verification behind the scenes. Verify looked far more fiddly & complex, with too much sharing of data via other sites.

    1. FrogsAndChips Bronze badge
      FAIL

      Re: They make Verify hard to use

      How true. I'd already posted some time ago what I thought of Verify. So for my last tax return, I thought I'd use Gov Gateway instead. Alas, failure there too, I'd probably set up an account in a previous life, but the system was utterly unable to let me retrieve my identifiers.

      So it was back to Verify. That's when I discovered that RoyalMail had disappeared from the list of providers, and I had to create a brand new account with PostOffice. Miraculously, it worked on first attempt, but I don't know what's in store for the next time I try it.

  6. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Today children

    we will learn how to use the term "cluster-fuck".

    1. tfewster Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Today children

      Tsk, tsk, "omnishambles", please, if we're talking to British children

  7. nematoad Silver badge
    Happy

    "...throwing money at the proverbial dead horse"

    An interesting article though not much of a surprise given that "Government" and "IT project" always seem to end disastrously and cost us, the tax-payer a lot of money.

    What spoiled it for me was your mixing of two metaphors. It's either "Throwing money down the drain" or "Flogging a dead horse".

    Though on second look you might have hit the nail on the head because as far as I can see this bunch of incompetents is doing both with this project.

    1. drand
      Headmaster

      Mixing metaphors is a pain in the neck and should be weeded out.

      1. Giovani Tapini Silver badge

        Grateful for the clarification

        as I thought we had started getting pains in the weed..

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Grateful for the clarification

          The metaphors were supplied by a private contractor under the government's new Malapropism scheme, implemented by crapita

        2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: Grateful for the clarification

          I think we might to be close to being able to prescribe 'the weed' for such pains (eases symptoms)

    2. Flywheel Silver badge

      cost us, the tax-payer a lot of money

      So is Chris Grayling involved in this as well? Gawd, is there no end to this man's versatility?!

  8. cadders

    This has happened before, and will happen again

    Last week the NAO were reporting on the massive waste of public money involved in asking Crapita to fsck up the army's recruitment

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/03/01/capita_mod_defence_recruiting_system_project_pac_report/

    This week it's the unusable and shambolic Verify system. I wonder what it will be next week?

    The NAO actually do a good job highlighting massive wastes of public money but seem to be powerless to do anything about it.

    Until a civil servant or politician loses their job over this it'll just keep on happening

    Asking the civil service or politicians to control their spending is just like asking Jimmy Saville to babysit for you

    1. A.P. Veening

      Re: This has happened before, and will happen again

      "Asking the civil service or politicians to control their spending is just like asking Jimmy Saville to babysit for you"

      Now you are maligning Jimmy Saville (and yes, I am perfectly aware of his reputation).

  9. joe_joe

    GDS were slightly overambitious

    Verify never sounded like it was going to go anywhere. I hope this doesn't sink GDS though. The government needs protection from the big System Integrators like Kainos/Accenture. They're the only government department with technical chops to keep these guys honest. Otherwise, we're going to be in an endless loop of spending.

    1. A.P. Veening

      Re: GDS were slightly overambitious

      "Otherwise, we're going to be in an endless loop of spending."

      It seems to have escaped your notice you already are.

    2. John G Imrie Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: GDS were slightly overambitious

      Unfortunately GDS have become the problem, rather than part of the solution. I had to deal with them for part of my job and we had to use their Government approved font on a website we where creating for them, with Government approved text, which contained characters that weren't in the font. Nice.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: GDS were slightly overambitious

        And ensure all the white space is Government approved white space?

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "HMRC said it didn't adopt Verify because the system couldn't deal with business customers or people acting on behalf of someone else"

    About as clear an indication as you can get to a lack of requirements gathering.

    I wonder if they even asked themselves "what's identity?".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What is identity?

      HMRC don t really care about the identity of the person paying them money as they reason that nobody would pretend to be another person in order to pay their tax bill for them.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wearily

    As a government IT employee, discovering something developed by GDS is a pile of pants is not very surprising unfortunately

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wearily

      I once knew a bunch of GDS staff who moved together en-masse to a new project in the private sector. They were the most arrogant, clueless and downright fucking stupid clique of people I’ve ever worked with, and in 30 years I’ve worked with all types! I laughed my ass off when they were all summarily told to leave.

      It reminded me of being a big thing at school, and then going to Uni to discover you’re just not that special. They left the comfort of central government where the baseline competence level is pumping out gold-plated turds, and discovered that a high-pressure cost-sensitive environment requires some actual knowledge and experience.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wearily

      I once knew a bunch of GDS staff who moved together en-masse to a new project in the private sector. They were the most arrogant, clueless and downright fucking stupid clique of people I’ve ever worked with, and in 30 years I’ve worked with will all types! I laughed my ass off when they were all summarily told to leave.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why create a new system

    when others are readily available.

    Have users log in using their Facebook credentials.

    I heard that FB now offers 2FA for even more security.

    1. Rustbucket

      Re: Why create a new system

      You needed to add the /s tag, or some people won't get it.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Why create a new system

      I heard that FB now offers 2FA for even more security

      And has the benefit that FB already know everything about you[1] so you don't have to re-enter data..

      [1] Unless you are evil anti-tech luddites that refuse to use FB. Or, as I prefer to think "people who don't want a faceless, amoral, evil corporation sell data about you to other evil, amoral companies and state security bodies.."

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