Govt 'obsession' killed national access card

Back-end efficiencies still attainable

A former head of Australia's failed $1.1 billion Access Card said the project crashed because of the then Howard government “obsession” with delivering a mandatory single identity card, rather than back-end efficiency.

The Access Card was introduced by then human services minister Joe Hockey and born from a Medicare ID card project both directed by former smartcard technologies taskforce chair James Kelaher.

The project was scrapped after 10 years of research and more than $130 million in government expenditure, according to Kelaher.

He said more than $3 million was spent on aligning back-end systems and some $50 million on failed procurement processes.

“The opportunity to re-engineer back office applications was lost when the government became obsessed with ensuring everyone has one card,” Kelaher said.

“It was foolish to put everyone in one category and even more foolish to try to rush the project... and [for government] to own and operate the card.”

The Access Card was created to unify back-end systems under Medicare and then across government agencies, according to Kelaher, an initiative he said was burnt when the then government sold it as a mandatory single card by which to access essential services.

The back-end efficiencies sought in the Access Card are still attainable and should be seized by government, Kelaher said.

The Malaysian Government has integrated several private and public agencies into its MYKAD national access card using its existing and common infrastructure.

Under one proposal the card would replace bank cards in the country's 10 prominent banks and could be read by ATMs which would decode encrypted data on the card.

Another has linked the card to the nation's petrol stations to stamp-out abuse of its pump-subsidised fuel by non-Malaysian citizens.

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