DWP ordered to reveal £47m shared services contract details

The Department of Work and Pensions has been ordered to reveal most of the details of a £47 million shared services deal with Atos Origin, for the Government Gateway service.

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The Department of Work and Pensions has been ordered to reveal most of the details of a £47 million shared services deal with Atos Origin, for the Government Gateway service.

In a ruling made this week, the Information Tribunal said it was in the public interest that the details were disclosed. These details include benchmarking in the contract, key performance indicators and liability caps.

However, other details will be kept secret, including Atos Origin’s financial model and its datacentre location.

The Gateway contract covers the running of an IT system to handle queries and transactions between citizens and the government. Atos Origin had been the sole bidder for the work, after EDS and Capgemini pulled out of the running. The work was to replace a failed £83 million deal with ITnet, now part of Serco.

Some of the contract details were already revealed two years ago, after a Freedom of Information Request, it was reported by Pinsent Masons lawyers on the Out-law.com site. But the DWP withheld other information, arguing that disclosing some data would be damaging to its own and Atos Origin’s commercial interests.

The Information Commissioner then backed the FOI request, but the DWP appealed to the Tribunal, citing the need for effective future negotiations with suppliers, and resulting in this week’s judgement.

The FOI request asked for the DWP to reveal the contract’s liability caps, as well as benchmarking data provided by Atos Origin to demonstrate it was charging the DWP similarly to other customers. These will be revealed.

Section 43 of the FOI Act allows companies to withhold information if it is a trade secret, if it would damage commercial interests, or if it is better for the public interest to keep the data confidential. The Tribunal supported that section in parts of its judgement, particularly in holding back specific details of the supplier’s financial modelling and its key datacentre location.

However the Tribunal found that it was important the public knows that such a financial model existed in the contract, in order to demonstrate that real cost comparisons were clearly available.  It also ordered the liability cap, key performance indicators, charges and change control notices to be revealed.

The DWP has 35 days to release all of the information, unless it appeals within the next four weeks.

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