The Government will split the pounds 5.5bn identity card programme into at least three contracts because no company is prepared to shoulder the risk of the hugely complex scheme alone.
The Home Office is expected to issue the contract to tender in the next six weeks in what will be one of the largest public sector IT projects ever.
The work will be split into separate contracts to manage the database of information stored on the cards, to manufacture the cards and to provide biometric technology for them.
But there is still uncertainty among IT companies who will be bidding for the work about how the scheme will work. This is despite the fact that the Government's 18-month "market sounding" exercise with the industry is almost over.
One senior executive of a major IT company said: "There is huge confusion going on. No one has the impression that the Home Office has decided what it wants yet. We're …