New Government IT framework focused on building systems for digital services

Out-Law News | 16 Jul 2013 | 1:48 pm | 2 min. read

The Government has outlined plans to establish a new £40 million IT procurement framework it hopes will allow it to "move away from legacy IT and big contracts with a few large systems integrators".

The new Digital Services Framework, scheduled to operate for nine months, will enable central Government departments to contract with selected suppliers that can provide "digital project build services", the Cabinet Office said. The Government Procurement Service will run each procurement of services under the framework centrally on behalf of individual departments, it said.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said that there would be opportunities for smaller suppliers to win access to the framework. Businesses can submit their bids for inclusion on the framework until 7 August.

"To deliver the efficient and responsive public services that users demand, we must ensure that government has access to the most innovative and cost-effective digital solutions," Maude said. "Often, these services will be provided by smaller firms that in the past have been locked out of public sector business by complex and expensive pre-qualification requirements. The Digital Services Framework is an example of government procurement that is faster, simpler and easier to do business with."

"We want to have a highly competitive market, access to innovation, and to drive growth by working with businesses of all sizes. That's how we will deliver world-leading digital public services and build a stronger economy," Maude added.

Framework agreements allow buyers to obtain services they want from a select list of suppliers that have won the right to be included on that list of providers. Government buyers can then contract with those suppliers for specific needs they have without having to run a full procurement and tendering process each time.

"The procurement is the first to be announced since the review of technology frameworks at the end of 2012," the Cabinet Office said. "It will give government access to a pool of agile suppliers needed to help departments build and run services that meet the Digital by Default Service Standard. GDS (Government Digital Service) will work with departments to ensure alignment with the standard and the framework will also be available for the wider public sector to use."

The Government ICT market is currently under scrutiny by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).  The regulator launched an information gathering exercise earlier this month in a bid to find out more about competition in the market for the supply of ICT goods and services to the public sector.

The OFT said that the top 20 software and IT service providers currently earn about £10.4 billion in annual revenues from UK public sector bodies. It said it wants to ensure that there is healthy competition in the market.

Expert in IT contract negotiations Simon Colvin of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "The framework should enable departments swifter access to suppliers and therefore reduced procurement costs and timescales. The success of the framework will be dependent upon the level of competition arising. Hopefully the pre-qualification process and availability to a range of SME suppliers should achieve that."