Suppliers recommend changes to G-Cloud

Out-Law News | 23 Jan 2014 | 12:10 pm | 2 min. read

A number of business groups have written an open letter to the UK Government calling on it to make a number of changes to its 'G-Cloud' programme.

The letter, signed by representatives from 15 organisations, including Skyscape Cloud Services, Azeus and Lockheed Martin, said that they are "passionate advocates of G-Cloud". However, they identified a number of issues the Government should address to ensure the future success of the scheme.

The group said that it is concerned that public sector buyers are not following Government guidance when using the G-Cloud to procure IT products and services. They said that there is a risk that suppliers not featured on the framework could challenge the G-Cloud procurement process as a result.

"A successful challenge could potentially damage the integrity of the initiative, and all that it promises to deliver to the UK public sector," the group's open letter said. "We recommend that a system be put in place to enable suppliers to report variances from the G-Cloud buying guide to the G-Cloud team and CCS (Crown Commercial Service) to enable any common issues to be addressed."

The G-Cloud system allows public sector bodies to gain access to cloud-based IT services being offered by a selected list of pre-approved suppliers during a set period.

The Government's 'cloud first' policy requires Government departments to consider IT solutions offered through the cloud before they consider alternatives. The departments can only deviate from using cloud-based IT solutions where they can show that alternative offerings offer "better value for money" than the products and services available through the 'CloudStore', an online marketplace for cloud IT services linked to the G-Cloud.

In their open letter, the organisations called for a new "template collaboration agreement" to be created by the Government to help buyers put in place contractual arrangements with multiple suppliers either through the G-Cloud or through a mix of G-Cloud-listed suppliers and those not on the framework.

The standardisation of contracts through the G-Cloud also poses "challenges", the group said. It said some buyers view the standardised contracts as not being "sufficiently robust" and cause some to avoid using the G-Cloud altogether or to "architect additional clauses to bolster the contract". The group also said that it was concerned about buyers mandating the use of their own terms in contracts with suppliers in some cases.

"A particular grey area for some buyers is whether or not individual buying organisations can incorporate their own mandatory terms and conditions," the group said in their letter. "We recognise that specific requirements may require, to the extent possible, some revision to the terms between particular buyers and suppliers, however the risks of buyers using order forms to change contract terms is widely recognised, particularly within the cloud legal/academic community."

"There is a clear need to engage with buyers to establish what the G-Cloud Framework terms need to cover, and incorporate into the standard terms to the extent possible. This – coupled with renewed emphasis on the G-Cloud buying guide on the extent that additional clauses can be used – will lead to improved adoption and safer contracting for all," it said.

Among the other recommendations, the group said that it wants better communication for suppliers about the reasons why they are not shortlisted for individual contracts awarded through the G-Cloud. It said the feedback will enable suppliers to "improve their products and pricing which will in turn benefit the market as a whole".

The group also said there is "a high level of confusion" about new security standards that are going to be required of suppliers in the forthcoming fifth G-Cloud framework (G5). It called on the Government to issue "clear guidance ... very soon" to help both buyers and suppliers in the way the set and comply with the security requirements.