U.K. Ministry Of Justice Postpones Major IT Contract

Whitehall unexpectedly puts £300m IT contract covering extensive user network on hold. Some speculators say it's because too few SMBs were in the running.

Gary Flood, Contributor

June 10, 2013

3 Min Read

A £300 million ($466 million) Ministry of Justice (MoJ) desktop and laptop support contract has been postponed, reportedly after the four most serious contenders had already spent millions bidding.

The End User Computing and Common Services contract was designed to change the way ICT services are delivered across the Ministry, going from a line of business to a new cross-functional approach. In May 2012 the MoJ announced that the five-year contract would cover 2,300 sites nationally, comprising an extensive network of prisons, courts, tribunals, probation services centers and other locations. The contract involved the supply, management and maintenance of the entire end computer environment, comprising desktops, laptops, workplace productivity applications, including email and word processing, peripherals and storage. The end-user contract was intended to be just one component of the MoJ's Future IT Sourcing plan, which also included service integration, networks, hosting, application maintenance and development.

However, suppliers have now been told the contract has been suspended, with no set date for when the Ministry will return to the market. According to U.K. news site CRN, which broke the story, a representative from the Ministry said it will be "retendering for revised contracts for the service at a later date" but offered neither a specific timeframe nor an explanation for why the contract was suspended, saying only that the MoJ's requirements have changed.

[ IT belt-tightening pays off for British government. Read Whitehall Spending Hawks Tout IT Savings. ]

Atos Origin, HP, Computacenter and Fujitsu were all said to be in the final round of negotiations for the contract. An anonymous source noted that the last four bidders"must be frustrated, given the investment they have made into this process."

Some observers speculate that insufficient numbers of small and midsize tech firms were involved in the last stages of contract negotiations. While SMB suppliers are less likely to be primary partners for major government departments, the current Coalition government prefers to see them included in the supply chain of larger system integrator bids.

Last week, for example, Prime Minister David Cameron told small business owners, "If we are going to compete and succeed and win in that global race, it is small businesses that are going to enable us to do that."

Cameron also pointed to the U.K.'s ongoing ambitions to boost its GDP via technology and startups. "A decade ago a cloud was something in the sky, Twitter was something you might hear on a nice summer's day sitting out in your garden and Skype was a typo," he said. "The world has changed so fast and some of the biggest and most successful companies in our world were barely even thought of a decade ago, but they have gone from nothing to being massive generators of wealth, of employment and of growth."

Yesterday's innovative data center may be today’s money pit. Is it time for a new plan? Also in the new, all-digital Data Center Decision Time issue of InformationWeek: Data center consolidation is tough, as the government's experience shows. (Free registration required.)

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