The Ministry of Justice has awarded a contract worth between £31.5 million and £76.5 million for electronic monitoring hardware to Worcestershire-based firm Steatite.
The MoJ said it awarded the contract without a call for competition due to “extreme urgency brought about by events” that it did not foresee. This refers to the overcharging scandal that Serco and G4S were embroiled in, which resulted in the two security firms paying the government compensation and losing the contract to Capita.
Under the contract, Steatite - a subsidiary of Solid State - will supply the MoJ with anklets, fixed position units, handheld monitoring devices, equipment management devices and all the associated firmware and software needed for monitoring offenders’ attendance, curfew, location or exclusion from specified areas.
The government’s electronic monitoring service currently monitors about 25,000 people at any one time using only radio technology. In the financial year 2010/11, around 116,000 people were monitored in total.
In 2012, the MoJ posted a contract notice for ‘next generation’ electronic monitoring services - that is, GPS-enabled tags - and Steatite will be required to cooperate with Capita, which was selected as the preferred bidder for the £400 million electronic tagging contract, to build a fully integrated system.
Capita is providing monitoring centres, field force support and wider services as a systems integrator.
The MoJ had planned to appoint a supplier for electronic monitoring hardware, which was Lot 3, under the 2012 procurement process. However, It said it stopped the Lot 3 part of the contract notice because it had an “extremely urgent need” to award the contract, and negotiated directly with Steatite, which had been a reserve bidder for Lot 3, to work out a deal.
The “urgent reasons” the MoJ provided included a shortage of electronic tags which could have left it unable to comply with court orders and a need for GPS and other location-data providing electronic tags. It also said that any further delays in awarding the contract would have delayed key government schemes relating to electronic tagging.
“The authority therefore commenced negotiations with the company identified in section V.3 above [i.e. Steatite], which was a reserve bidder in the competitive negotiated procedure, in order to award a contract,” the MoJ said in a contract award notice.
“Only a company which participated in the previous competition, and was therefore already familiar with the authority’s technical, commercial and legal requirements, would have been able to meet the authority’s urgent timescales.”
Steatite will supply its products and services in England and Wales, to MoJ organisations such as Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), National Offender Management Service (NOMS0, Home Office and UK Visas and Immigration.
The contract duration is for a minimum of three years. Steatite said it expects to begin supplying products to the MoJ by the end of 2014.
“Quantities to be delivered are then expected to progressively increase over the contract term,” the supplier said.
Gary Marsh, chief executive of Steatite’s parent company Solid State, said: “This is a landmark contract for the group and our largest to date. It marks the culmination of three years’ development work by Steatite and suitably illustrates the scale and complexity of the contracts that we are increasingly tendering for.”