Environment department pays for 212 Oracle licences per civil servant

Whitehall provides conflicting messages in response to news the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs is shelling out for 212 Oracle licences per employee.


The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) pays for 212 Oracle licences for each of its civil servants, according to a Freedom of Information (FoI) response.

The department buys 1.8 million Oracle licences annually for about 8,500 staff, equivalent to about 212 licences per employee at a total cost of £1.6 million per year, according to an FoI request lodged by the Register.

The annual licence cost per employee is £186 including VAT, despite a Cabinet Office edict in 2012 saying departments should pay no more than £89 per user for Oracle licences.

Oracle licensing is notoriously complicated, inflexible and rigidly enforced. A study released at the end of last year found just eight percent of users found their relationship with Oracle ‘acceptable’ while 92% said communication from Oracle had not been clear or straightforward.

Defra, the Cabinet Office and Oracle each tried to shift the blame for the situation when contacted by ComputerworldUK.

Defra told ComputerworldUK the statistics it originally provided in the FoI incorrectly included the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC).

As a result the original statistics they provided were skewed thanks to an extra 1,187 staff at DECC, making it seem there were 150 licences per civil servant rather than 212.

Defra referred ComputerworldUK’s request for the data to the Cabinet Office, which is responsible for coordinating cross-government dealings with major suppliers. After two days it said it was a matter “for the departments concerned”.

Defra later provided the data to ComputerworldUK and explained one of its staff members had made a mistake in the FoI response.

Despite the fact the data had already been released under FoI, DECC refused to disclose the information when contacted by ComputerworldUK and claimed it was ‘commercially sensitive’.

None of the departments responded to ComputerworldUK’s questions over what plans, if any, they have to consolidate licences and cut costs.

Oracle questioned the figures when contacted by ComputerworldUK, but said it could not provide new ones.

An Oracle spokesman said: “Defra’s respondent may not have the right level of understanding around software licensing and the fact there are a number of licenses per user for the different elements of the ERP product.”

However the spokesman said confirmation of the figures will “need to come from Defra/DECC rather than us” as it cannot “provide details of commercial agreements with any customers without their express permission”.

Image credit: ©iStock/XiXinXing

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