ComputerWeekly’s paper on the implications of ID Cards, produced for the Commons Public Administration Comittee, is avaoialble online.

They are not particularly enthusiastic — particularly because the Government has so far been reluctant to publish a business case or audited assessments of the benefits.

“So far the ID card scheme has been characterised by a lack of openness, honesty and transparency,” the report says.

Secrecy — and the consequent lack of public and parliamentary scrutiny that could prevent potentially major risks ” has been a major problem in large government IT projects, the trade magazine says.

There’s one particularly despicable anecdote:

There is even some evidence of secrecy for secrecy’s sake. In May, at the government IT summit attended by the deputy information commissioner Francis Aldhouse and other notables, a civil servant went unchallenged when he told the invited audience that he and his colleagues derived pleasure from withholding information from MPs. The disclosure came during a panel discussion about ID cards and identity management. The civil servant made it clear that MPs and others will not find it easy to discover how government IT projects are progressing.

“You may think that posing the question is the easy part. It is not,” he said.

“Before the Freedom of Information Act most information was got out of government departments through parliamentary questions. As a civil servant of many years our greatest joy in a day was getting a PQ [parliamentary question] and answering exactly as it was asked, which is a way of answering the question without giving any information.”

This brought a ripple of knowing murmurs in the audience. He continued, “Collectively we have centuries of experience of doing thisÉ I actually do know this has gone on in my organisation: when we are looking at Freedom of Information enquiries we are looking at the way the enquirer is asking a question and we are seeking a way to answer that question exactly as asked and thereby withhold information.”

The contemporary Sir Humphrey seems to lives in some Whitehall IT department.