The government has secured the extension of the £1bn-plus Software Application Solutions (SAS) framework for nine months past its four-year limit. The move has been undertaken "to ensure continuity of service", as the next generation of big-ticket commodity procurement vehicles remain some way away from realisation.
The SAS framework, which features 19 suppliers across six lots, came into effect on 17 December 2009 and ran for an initial two-year term. The first of two optional one-year extensions was activated in December 2011, and it was further extended a year later, taking it to the OJEU-mandated limit of four years.
But an extra nine months has been agreed, taking the finish date to 16 September 2014. The Cabinet Office claimed that the continuation of SAS will provide cover while it readies a trio of major new contracts: Transactional IT Procurement Solution; IT Products, Associated Services and Solutions; and Software Solutions.
"The Software Applications Solutions framework has been extended to September 2014 to ensure continuity of service while we develop and implement new commodity IT hardware and software procurements," said a Cabinet Office representative. "Three Prior Information Notices (PIN)... were issued in December. These procurements cover the scope of the Software Applications Solutions framework.
"We are actively engaging with potential suppliers to establish the most appropriate commercial models and contracting terms to deliver best value for the taxpayer. Supplier days for the three procurements are well under way - the first one took place in December. We will update suppliers and customers again in due course."
The extension of SAS will surely be welcome news for public sector IT chiefs with urgent software needs, but supplier sources have indicated they still harbour concerns about the imminent end date of the £6bn Commodity IT Hardware and Software (CITHS) framework. The deal reaches the conclusion of its four-year term at the end of next month, which industry figures have noted with alarm is right at the start of the government's most hectic spending period, as it enters the last month of its fiscal year.
Potential suppliers had expected to spend last summer working on their bids for a replacement commodity IT vehicle, but the PINs were ultimately not issued until three weeks before Christmas.
The SAS framework - the initial two-year value of which was pegged at £1bn, plus VAT - covers a wide range of enterprise software products across six lots: Bespoke Applications; Customer/Citizen Relationship Management and Case Management Solutions; Document and Records Management Solutions; HR, Finance, Procurement, Transactions Management and ERP Solutions; Information Management Applications; and Web Design and Content Management Services.
Some 19 suppliers feature, with nine or ten on each lot. The framework features an array of big-name vendors and hulking systems integrators, including IBM, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, Mouchel, Northgate, Capita, and Capgemini.
Industry chatter indicates a decision on whether or not to extend CITHS is expected in the second half of this week, with the channel grapevine suggesting that a six-month extension is considered the most likely outcome. Such an agreement would see the mega-contract running until the end of August, giving the Cabinet Office a good deal more breathing room in terms of cementing the new procurement vehicles in place.
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