Cost of public services card project hits €54.6m

Minister for Social Protection reveals costs include pay for up to 216 staff on project

The cost of the Government’s public services card (PSC) project has reached almost €54.6 million to date, including nearly €29 million to pay up to 216 staff working on it.

The figures were supplied to TDs in a response to a parliamentary question by Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty this week.

Responding to Independent TD Catherine Connolly, and Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, the Minister said the total card project to date had cost €54,584,141. Some €9,478,196 of that cost was incurred this year.

The total cost for production of the cards has been nearly €20.9 million to date.


Ms Doherty said her department, on behalf of the public service, had entered into a contract for the production, personalisation, distribution and associated helpdesk support of three million PSCs by the end of 2017.

The contract was awarded to Biometric Card Services, an Irish-registered company based in Wicklow.

“To date, some 2.98 million cards have been issued. As the initiative is demand-led, it isn’t possible to predict precisely when three million PSCs will be issued,” the Minister said.


She added her department was “considering a number of options for continued production of the PSC when the current contract expires at the end of this year”.

"The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has sanctioned a total of up to 218 posts for the project," Ms Doherty said.

“These posts include both temporary and permanent roles, and the numbers and locations of deployed staff are kept under constant review to ensure the best use of resources. As of end-October 2017 there were 51.96 full-time-equivalent permanent staff (FTE) and 164 temporary clerical officers working on the PSC project.”

This includes four full-time IT staff. The Minister said she did not have a figure for the cost of postage for letters sent to people notifying them to obtain a card as postage costs were not differentiated across different business processes in the department.

Ms Doherty said other costs included the provision of “external expertise in relation to related technical issues as well as development and deployment of associated software on internal IT systems”.

The cards have a maximum validity period up to seven years, which means they will have to be replaced over time.

Confusion caused

Separately, the Minister told Ms Murphy a recent update to An Post’s counter transaction system appeared to have caused “some confusion among staff in post offices” as her department had received an increase in queries regarding the use of the PSC for identification.

The department operates its contract for cash payment services with An Post.

Ms Doherty said the department and An Post had agreed a protocol in 2014 governing the forms of identification which claimants must produce in order to claim payments. There had been no change to this protocol or to the forms of identification required of claimants in order to collect their payment.

Welfare claimants must produce one of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection cards when collecting payments at a post office. These include the PSC, a current passport, a national ID card for EU citizens other than of Ireland or the UK, a current in-date Irish or UK driving licence or Irish driver learning permit, and a Garda National Immigration Bureau card.

The department has published a list of frequently-asked questions about the card on its website at the request of the Data Protection Commissioner. The commissioner last month announced she would investigate aspects of the PSC roll-out and related projects.