Government accused of rushing through secret multibillion-pound IT contracts

The government is rushing to sign a spate of new IT contracts, totalling several billion pounds, ahead of an election, the Conservative party has claimed.

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The government is rushing to sign a spate of new IT contracts, totalling several billion pounds, ahead of an election, the Conservative party has claimed.

Francis Maude, shadow cabinet office minister, told the Financial Times that the government was apparently set to sign a £1 billion, ten-year contract for defence logistics software, as well as an £800 million communications and IT services deal for the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Exact details were “incredibly difficult to obtain”, he said. The Cabinet Office did not immediately comment.

Meanwhile, the government is also pushing hard to seal contract “resets” this month with BT and CSC on the £12.7 billion NHS National Programme for IT, it was claimed. Maude estimated that renegotiated contracts could effectively tie the hands of a future government by introducing cancellation clauses worth “billions of pounds” to the suppliers.

Earlier this week, the government announced a preferred bidder on a £600 million pensions offshoring scheme, months ahead of the date when it was expected to sign the deal. A Conservative pensions spokesperson said at the time he was “taken aback” by the early signing, so close to an election. But pensions minister Angela Eagle insisted the government was not attempting to restrict future change.

Maude has sent a letter to Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’ Donnell, stating that “there is no conceivable reason why these contracts need to be signed now”. In the letter, he urges O’ Donnell to provide written assurance that no new or renegotiated contracts would be signed before the election.

The letter was copied to the government’s spending auditor, the National Audit Office.

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