IT contracts top Foreign Office procurement spending

Four of the largest procurements made by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are IT related, according to a parliamentary answer from the government.


Four of the largest procurements made by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are IT related, according to a parliamentary written answer.

The question was posed by the opposition as the government comes under increasing pressure about the success or otherwise about large governmental IT projects and their cost, as the UK approaches a general election next year.

Labour MP Catherine McKinnell asked FCO minister David Lidington what his department's ten largest contracts were since financial year 2010-11, what savings have been made from the contracts, and what the level of overspend or underspend there was in each contract.

She also asked what steps the FCO had taken to monitor the performance of each contract following the contract award.

Lidington listed the ten largest contracts but would not supply exact contract values for "reasons of commercial confidence".

One of the most expensive contracts, worth between £90 million and £100 million, was one with Vodafone Cable and Wireless, for the ECHO telecommunications programme.

The only other contract in that price bracket was with G4S for "guarding" in war-torn Afghanistan.

There were also two other IT-related contracts in the £30 million to £90 million bracket, including with Computacenter for the Firecrest/Desktop Infrastructure contract, and with Detica for the Service Management Integrator Framework.

They were in the same price bracket as a contract with GardaWorld, for guarding in Baghdad.

In the price bracket up to £30 million, along with other guarding contracts with G4S in the UK and GardaWorld in Libya, Capgemini had a contract for the Prism project.

Lidington said, "Five of these ten contracts have only commenced in the past few months, so data is not yet available on actual spend profile or savings.

"Information regarding the remaining five contracts cannot be provided without incurring disproportionate cost. Budget management of contracts is devolved to departments rather than held centrally, and parties managing contracts are held to account for financial contract performance by relevant budgetary processes."

He added, "Best procurement practice is followed in the letting of all contracts in accordance with guidelines set out by the Government Procurement Service.

"Steps to monitor the performance of these contracts are set out in the governance procedures of each contract which are determined on a case by case basis, and which must include regular gateway reviews and measurement against key performance indicators to ensure performance against contractual milestones and value for money."

The previous Labour government was taken to task for its handling of large governmental IT contracts by the opposition, including the NHS National Programme for IT and the National ID Card, both multi-billion pound projects that were eventually scrapped.

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