UK government accused of ignoring IT supplier 'collusion'

27 January 2012

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27 January 2012 | Angeline Albert

MPs have criticised the UK government for ignoring requests for an external investigation into claims of collusion by large IT suppliers.

In a report published yesterday by the Commons Public Administration Select Committee (PASC), a cross-party group of MPs concluded the government has failed to investigate allegations that “large systems integrators operate in the manner of a cartel”.

The Committee highlighted allegations of anti-competitive and collusive behaviour by some large suppliers and has renewed its call for Whitehall to establish an independent investigation to determine whether there is truth in the cartel claims.

The review is a follow up to the report published in July, which described the government’s approach to IT purchasing as “woefully inadequate” and a “recipe for rip-offs”. It also highlighted the government's over-reliance on an oligopoly of large suppliers and a failure to carry out intelligent IT procurement.

The MPs also described the government’s IT buying strategy as “still lacking in its commitment to independent benchmarking of contracts with transparent data” and that it remained unclear how it would address Whitehall’s buying skills gap.

Bernard Jenkin MP, chair of the committee said: “This can only be achieved by bringing in IT executives and buyers from large and small companies, who understand what they are buying and the innovations on offer. This expertise cannot be contracted out.”

The Committee said a lack of accurate information about its IT made it impossible to identify potential overcharging which led to the waste of  "obscene” amounts of public money. MPs added the government must build in-house contracting capacity and that without independent, external advice to identify price comparisons, the anticipated cost reductions would not be achieved.

The Cabinet Office - the department leading the government’s IT strategy - was described as not a large IT user, which has historically struggled to drive change within other departments and with deeply embedded relationships with large suppliers.

Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister, said in a statement: “We set out some ambitious objectives in our ICT strategy and since then we have been going from strength to strength. The action we are taking will reduce waste, and avoid the costly project failures of the past. We will consider the report’s recommendations before setting out our response in due course.”


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