A soon-to-be-awarded Ministry of Justice (MoJ) desktop and laptop support contract has been postponed - but only after the four firms left in the process had already shelled out millions on bid costs.
The End User Computing and Common Services (EUC) contract, worth up to £300m over five years, is part of the MoJ's Future ICT (FITS) programme.
FITS is designed to change the way ICT services are delivered across the MoJ from the current end-to-end contracts by line of business to an MoJ-wide "service tower" model. Besides End User Computing, there are towers for service integration, networks, hosting and application maintenance and developments.
However, suppliers have been informed that the End User Computing tower, which was being contested by Atos Origin, HP, Computacenter and Fujitsu, has been suspended.
An MoJ representative confirmed the MoJ will be retendering for revised contracts for the service at a later date, but couldn't say when. They did not offer an explanation, other than to say "our requirements have changed".
Michael Keegan, managing director of Fujitsu's technology solutions division (pictured), said: "I can confirm that we have received notice that the MoJ has stopped the procurement and it is up to them to comment further."
Another source, who wished to remain anonymous, branded the stoppage as "frustrating", adding that the bidding costs for each prospective supplier would already have run into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.
"Clearly I would suspect the last four bidders are frustrated given the investment they have made into this process, along with the lost opportunity and tying up of valuable resources," said the source, who wished to remain anonymous.
Although no official reason has been given, there is speculation that government bods got cold feet over whether the contract catered sufficiently to its SMB-friendly agenda.
Worth between £225m and £300m, the contract was set to run for five years with an option to extend by two further 12-month periods.
The contract entailed the supply, management and maintenance of end-user computing environments including desktops, laptops, workplace productivity applications across the whole of the MoJ, including its headquarters, HM Prisons, HM Courts & Tribunals centres and Probation Service centres. The winner will also provide common enabling services required by the other towers, such as authentication.
One industry onlooker grumbled that the government has a history of allowing bidders to rack up huge costs on new frameworks only to can or quickly sideline them.
"The government is very quick to go and get the industry to spend money on frameworks which it then stops, or create framework it then does not award through. This is another example of that," said the source.
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