The news that the Moroccan national security service (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Nationale) is to spend 124 million euros on a smartcard identity system for its 20 million citizens, isn’t normally the sort of news to hold a front page.

The system from security company Thales is pretty much identical to the one the UK government has been battling to convince people should be introduced, and which the country’s Home Secretary Charles Clarke spent valuable time promoting at this week’s annual Labour Party Conference.

"ID cards are controversial, of course, but we all need to understand that we already live in a society where there are enormous databanks of information about all of us, whether held by financial institutions, employers, passports and driving licences, health and education authorities or criminal justice agencies," he was reported as saying by The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

He urged people to support the bill that would make their carrying compulsory.

The UK scheme is admittedly three times the size of the Moroccan scheme, but that doesn’t fully explain why they can apparently have a functioning system of biometric ID cards for a fraction of the £10 to £15 billion (($19-$30 billion) it has been estimated the UK will end up spending on its system over the next decade.

Some say the final bill could go as far as double those figures, once the inevitable delays, technology bugs, and general muddle have been factored in.

We’ve been assured the UK system will be wonderfully complex – and have multiple uses - so it goes without saying that means expensive.

UK governments a long-cultivated record of serial incompetence when it comes to combining those two great opposites of government and technology, but perhaps someone, somewhere has just got their sums wrong.