Written answers

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Department of Social Protection

Public Services Card Provision

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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61. To ask the Minister for Social Protection if it is expected that his Department will meet the target of issuing 3 million public service cards by the end of 2017; the reason for the four-year delay in issuing these cards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17949/17]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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To date, my Department has issued over 2.5 million Public Services Cards (PSC) and it is the Department’s intention, with the assistance of increased demand from other public bodies, to issue a further 500,000 by the end of 2017.

The issuance of PSCs is part of a large, complex, multi-year project called SAFE. The project aims to provide all public bodies with a substantial level of assurance as to the identity of customers that present and to provide customers with a simple, easy-to-use, secure means of verifying their identity to public bodies. In this way customers should have a consistent way of proving who they are and not have to repeat laborious identity verification processes each time they avail of a public service.

The SAFE project was initially developed by an interdepartmental committee in the early-mid 2000s. While at that juncture it was envisaged that the project would be rolled out by 2013, a range of factors impacted on this in the mid-late 2000s.

Firstly, arising from the economic downturn from 2008 onwards, my Department experienced a rapid and unprecedented increase in demand for services and customer numbers. As a result of then Government Decisions, it was also required to undertake the integration of two other organisations and introduce significant new processes. These matters took priority over all other projects resulting in some delay to the SAFE project.

Secondly, these significant new demands, customer numbers and associated staff increases required the Department to upgrade and expand its central technical infrastructure which obviously took priority over all other technical projects, including the PSC project. This meant that the new PSC functionality could not go live until autumn 2011 at the earliest.

Finally, plans for the PSC also included a free travel variant for those with that entitlement so that the insecure paper free travel pass could be replaced. The development of this variant of the PSC was dependent on the availability of a suitable technical specification from the Railway Procurement Agency for it to work with the integrated ticketing system (ITS). This specification did not become available until the latter part of 2013 resulting in the free travel variant of the PSC not issuing until December 2013.

Given that these delays were outside the control of the project itself and its management, the project is on schedule to be completed with thin the 4-5 year period originally envisaged for its duration.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


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