Just five companies have been shortlisted to run the complex £2 billion (NZ$5 billion) ID-card plan, causing fresh concern about the effectiveness of the project.
Fujitsu, IBM and Thales are among the companies left that are competing to win five parts of the single "framework contract", which includes a £500 million deal to replace the existing passport-application system, a £500 million biometric fingerprint and photograph database and a £500 million card production plan.
Also up for grabs are contracts to handle the "critical" workers plan, which will create cards for airport staff and a plan to provide parts of a UK Border Agency case-management system.
The critical workers plan will be the first of the procurement deals, which will range from three to 10 years, to be awarded later this year. The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) will continue to award the contracts until late summer next year.
IPS executive director Bill Crothers told Silicon.com: "We decided on the five because all are qualified to do what we want."
Crothers also says he is confident the different suppliers could work together to successfully deliver the different parts of the plan.
However, the plan is facing opposition from the public and the Conservative party. Shadow home secretary David Davis said "The case for ID cards has collapsed. Gordon Brown must now take a decision, bite the bullet and cancel this ill-fated project."
Phil Booth, national coordinator of ID card pressure group NO2ID, added: "How are they expecting to get best value for money when they are awarding contracts to every single company staying in the process? They need to get a proper specification for what they want to do and re-tender to get a proper competitive process — this is a recipe for disaster."
The plan is expected to begin in 2009 with 10 million critical workers the first to receive ID cards. Crothers said it would take four years to complete.