Office of National Statistics surprises with staff transfer under Flex scheme

The Office for National Statistics has announced plans to transfer up to 60 IT staff to Fujitsu despite signing up to a shared services scheme that has not seen civil service staff transferred from other government departments.

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The Office for National Statistics has announced plans to transfer up to 60 IT staff to Fujitsu despite signing up to a shared services scheme that has not seen civil service staff transferred from other government departments.

The ONS has decided in principle to outsource parts of its IT support operations to Fujitsu, under the Public Service Flex framework agreement established by the Cabinet Office with Fujitsu in June.

The seven-year Flex contract was designed save the Cabinet Office £2.5m a year while other public sector bodies could sign up and secure economies of scale by sharing the service and a common infrastructure.

Organisations signing up to Flex receive a "core shared service", covering datacentre facilities, desktop hardware and software, thin client and laptop options, service desk support, network management, security, disaster recovery provision and flexible working facilities.

No staff were transferred from the Cabinet Office, nor from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, which has become the second central government department to join the shared services scheme, and will receive business applications and the standardised IT service from Fujitsu under the terms of the Flex agreement.

But the ONS – which is yet to sign a contract with Fujitsu – plans to transfer between 40 to 60 staff to Fujitsu.

National statistician Karen Dunnell said: "Challenging objectives lie ahead for the delivery of statistics. We have to modernise and the pace of change is accelerating. Our project team has spent 18 months carefully considering and evaluating the options and we believe this is the best option for the future and offers us best value for money."

The ONS would not say how much its contract with Fujitsu was set to cost. nor how much money it expected to save as a result. A spokesperson said the information was commercially confidential.

The Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents civil servants at the ONS, opposes the transfer.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, said: "This outsourcing will not mean better value for the taxpayer, but reflects the government's dogmatic belief that the private sector is always more efficient than the public."

Earlier this year, an inquiry by MPs found that a wider IT modernisation programme at the ONS was running late and has failed to deliver on three of its projects, while in March the department admitted that this year’s national accounts would be incomplete because of the IT overhaul.

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