NAO Verify ID Verification Success
Rate Just 48%
March 5, 2019
National Audit Office (NAO) has
published its investigation on Verify,
the government’s flagship identity verification portal. It has found
Verify’s performance has consistently been below the standards initially
set, and take-up among the public and departments has been much lower
The Government Digital Service (GDS), part of the Cabinet Office,
developed Verify to be the default way for people to prove their
identities so they can access online government services securely. It
originally intended for Verify to be largely self-funding by the end of
However, the NAO’s investigation highlights that the number of people
and departments using Verify is well below expectations. GDS has
significantly revised down its estimated financial benefits by over £650
million, for the period 2016-17 to 2019-20, from £873 million to £217
million. Government also continues to fund it centrally, although it
announced in October 2018 that this would stop in March 2020.
In 2016 GDS forecast that 25 million people would use Verify by 2020. By
February 2019, 3.6 million people had signed up for the service. If
current trends continue, approximately 5.4 million users will have
signed up by 2020.
Nineteen government services currently use Verify, less than the 46
expected to by March 2018, and of those, at least 11 can still be
accessed through other online systems. Some government service users,
such as Universal Credit claimants, have experienced problems. As a
result, departments have needed to undertake more manual processing than
they anticipated, increasing their costs.
Verify uses commercial providers to check people’s identities. GDS has
reported a verification success rate of 48% at February 2019, against a
projection of 90%. The success rate measures the proportion of people
who succeed in signing up for Verify, having had their identities
confirmed by a commercial provider. It does not count the number of
people dropping out before they finish their applications nor indicate
whether people can actually access and use the government services they
want after signing up with Verify.
The vast majority of funding comes from central government. Verify has
cost at least £154 million by December 2018 but this is likely to be an
underestimate of all costs, as GDS’s reported spend does not include
costs of departments reconfiguring their systems to use Verify. The
largest component of known costs, some £58 million, was payments to
commercial providers. In addition, out of seven departments invoiced for
their use of Verify from 2016-17 only one department (HMRC) has paid.
The total amount invoiced was £3.6 million, of which £2 million is
currently still outstanding.
Credit remains Verify’s biggest government customer in verifying
claimants identities and remains the major constraint in closing Verify.
However, most claimants cannot even use Verify to apply for Universal
Credit: only 38% of Universal Credit claimants can successfully verify
their identity online (of the 70% of claimants that attempt to sign up
through Verify). DWP is working with GDS on an improvement plan to
increase the number of claimants successfully verified.
Verify has been subject to over 20 internal and external reviews,
including a July 2018 review by the Infrastructure and Projects
Authority that recommended Verify be closed as quickly as practicable,
bearing in mind Universal Credit’s critical dependency on it. This
followed a Cabinet Office and Treasury decision in May 2018 to approve
GDS’s proposal to ‘reset’ Verify in an attempt to improve its
performance and take up.
GDS will withdraw from its operational role running Verify from April
2020. GDS envisages that under a market-based model, departments will
procure Verify’s services directly from commercial providers. This means
departments that currently do not pay their full usage costs for Verify
would have to in future.