Multi-suppliers for ID cards

22 August 2007
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23 August 2007 | Antony Barton

The government hopes to overcome past problems experienced by largescale IT projects by selecting not one, but several, potential ID card scheme suppliers. It was revealed in this month's OJEU notice that the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) has decided to set up a framework agreement for the £2 billion venture to provide biometric support, passport replacement, ID cards and more.

Bill Crothers, IPS executive director commercial, told SM: "We looked at good and bad experiences in largescale IT or business transformation projects. Rather than a single supplier for everything, we will have several."

Framework agreements act as an approved contractor list but do not guarantee business. They are becoming more common because they save public sector organizations from having to issue numerous OJEU notices for the same or similar work.

However, experts say it is an unusual approach to a complex deal.

Peter Smith, former IPS acting commercial director, said: "It allows more and faster competitions, although a framework is traditionally used for suppliers of more routine goods and services. It buys IPS more time to firm up specific requirements and gives them the flexibility of not committing to a single supplier."

After a nine-month selection process, five suppliers will be chosen via competitive dialogue for the National Identity Scheme Strategic Supplier Framework. They will take part in mini-competitions for contracts valued between £50 million and £500 million, which could last for up to 10 years.

Tim Williams, MD of Millstream Associates, a consultancy which assists suppliers using frameworks, said it was a clever way of handling the scheme. "It prevents any single contractor from hearing they'll receive all the money for the project and, in effect, having the IPS over a barrel."

Using this method, Crothers said, the chosen long-term supplier for each project must meet criteria at every stage. If they fail, the supplier will be removed from the project and possibly the framework.

"Termination for cause or convenience can be high-profile. Rather than terminating, we would be selecting not to award the next phase of work," he added.

PricewaterhouseCoopers partner David Padwick warns agencies will need to work hard to keep the interest and commitment of suppliers who fail to win mini-competitions.


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