THE ROAD SAFETY Authority (RSA) has to date spent €1.7 million on the design and building of an online application system for driving licences, which was originally set to take the place of physical licence centres from 2019 onwards, involving the use of the Public Services Card (PSC) data set.
Last week, TheJournal.ie revealed that the authority had spent €2 million on the project which would have seen the Public Services Card made mandatory for all licence applications, before Transport Minister Shane Ross unexpectedly called a halt.
That project also encompassed the facilitating of online renewal applications, with a ‘go live’ date of 30 April set for licence renewals to be carried out via the internet.
However, with Ross pulling the plug on the mandatory PSC project on 9 March, less than two weeks after it was first made public, due to doubts expressed by the Attorney General as to the legal soundness of such an approach, the online renewal project has also been plunged into jeopardy (the Department of Transport this week refused to release the nature of that legal advice stating “the department does not comment on legal advice sought or such advice received”).
The online renewals system was set to have gone live using MyGovID, the online version of the PSC data set.
It emerged last week however that only 3% of the people currently carrying Public Service Cards in Ireland have taken the next step of fully registering for MyGovID, meaning that urgent licence renewals would be a virtual impossibility.
The breakdown of the €2 million the RSA, per the authority’s own figures released to TheJournal.ie, actually spent is as follows:
- €299,997 (including VAT) for “phased communications” around the PSC migration project
- €1.7 million (including VAT) for the “build, test and design of an online application ICT (information and communications technology) system’
Of the €300,000 mentioned above, the RSA estimates that €80,000 was spent on ‘radio, digital and social advertising, production, editing, proofreading, design and printing’.
The radio campaign behind the ill-fated PSC project – the largest the RSA had ever embarked upon, designed to reach 85% of the country’s population 10 times over the space of three weeks – accounted for €30,000 worth of that figure.
The authority says that the balance of that budget, some €220,000, will be reallocated to “promote the new online system and other road safety promotion awareness activity later this year”.
A more detailed breakdown of the remaining €1.7 million was not made available due to it being “commercially sensitive information”, the RSA said.
How things stand with that project is as yet unclear. There is no mention of an online renewal service anywhere on the RSA’s website at present.
In communications between RSA CEO Moyagh Murdock and the Department of Transport (the RSA’s parent body) last September, Murdock makes clear that any issues surrounding the legality of the PSC project could jeopardise the authority’s plans to shut off its physical NDLS centres by early 2019.
Regarding abandoning MyGovID as the portal for licence renewals, Murdock said:
“The only alternative (not using PSI [Public Service Identity] dataset) online model would only be available to those who applied for a licence or a permit since October 2013 (for which we have electronic photographs and signatures).”
When delivering news to Murdock that Ross was to pull the plug on the mandatory PSC project in March, a Department of Transport official told her:
I have also been advised (verbally) by the AGO (Attorney General’s Office) that… delivery of the required legislation to permit online applications by 30 April is now seriously in doubt.
Making the PSC mandatory for driving licence applications was a keystone of the project, first announced in May 2017, to expand the card from its welfare-specific origins to encompass other state functions, including passport applications and Revenue business.
In pulling the plug on that project, Ross has thrown the entire PSC project into jeopardy, not least because the RSA had demanded, and been assured that it was the case, that Transport confirm that making the PSC mandatory for licence applications was entirely legal.
The PSC remains a pre-requisite, meanwhile, for all people applying for a driver theory test at present, itself a facet of the PSC migration project which went live in June 2017.
Whether or not the fact that making the PSC mandatory for licence applications is now considered illegal will affect the standing of the theory test remains unclear.