The Department of Social Protection failed to develop a business case for the rolling out of the Public Service Card and there is no evidence it carried out a comprehensive risk evaluation of the project, according to the State's spending watchdog.
The roll-out of single card-based access to public services was started by the then government in 2012 to deliver services in a “substantially more efficient” way.
It was also designed to reduce rates of fraud and errors caused through incorrect identification.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG)'s report for 2015 notes that the Department of Social Protection estimates the cost of the scheme will reach €60 million by the end of 2017.
The total budget for the scheme amounted to €55 million in 2012.
It was originally intended that 3 million public service cards would be produced by the end of 2013. At the end of June 2016, about 2 million cards had been produced.
The C&AG said that a number of factors were to blame for this, including the need to update IT infrastructure. It is expected the target of 3 million cards will be delivered by the end of 2017.
It is also noted that the cost of the service provider contract increased by over €3 million (16 per cent) due to contract changes and revisions arising from delays in the project and additional security features.
The Department of Social Protection had spent €2.2 million on card activation by June 2016. Just under 60 per cent of cards issued have been activated at the end of the same period.
The C&AG makes a number of observations in relation to the rollout of the scheme. He notes that no business case was developed when the government was making decisions that formed the basis of the project in 2004 and 2005.
“Business cases should quantify and compare the total costs of a project against the benefits expected in order to inform the decision-making process,” he said.
“In addition, the business case for a project facilitates ongoing review to ensure that continued expenditure represents best value and is affordable, and that the project is capable of being delivered successfully.”
The Department’s accounting officer told the C&AG that a business case had not been developed as it was a “brand new” concept, but that the project had been “coherently planned and implemented”.
The C&AG said it was “not evident” that a comprehensive risk evaluation and assessment of key dependencies, such as reliance on IT systems and organisation capacity, was conducted.
The Department did not set a target in relation to savings that were expected to accrue from the introduction of the card.
As of July 2016, the card is estimated to have saved €2.5 million. Included in that figure are 131 cases (€1.7 million) of suspected fraud.