Public sector IT can avoid Osborne's contract freeze with loophole

Just this week we reported on the Metropolitan Police’s renewed outsourcing contract with IT management and comms firm Capgemini for a staggering £190 million.

We were worried that tying itself into such a long term contract would result in the Met, and the tax payer, getting heavily burnt. Capgemini reassured us though, that if anything didn’t work out early, things would be fine, refunds would be given, etc. etc. Still details were thin on the ground, especially as to exactly why data centres were being moved up to The Icy North AKA Scotland.

We’re still not sure. But one point that really intrigued us was why the Met was so keen to renew its contract years ahead of its expiry date. Well – George Osborne, chancellor for the coalition government – announced recently that there will be a freeze on ICT projects in the public sector worth £1 million or more. 

For the mathematically challenged, £190 million is £189 million more than £1 million. If the Met had waited until its contract expired in 2015, it would likely have faced scrutiny from Big Dave’s cabinet. However, sources tell us that to renew a contract early is to go through a loophole, and a public sector organisation can avoid a freeze that way.

Our source told us: “This procurement decision was a contract extension and it is our belief that this falls outside the current financial review. Furthermore I would suggest that this is a question for the Met!” We agree – if only the Met would answer. FOI requests to follow.

We have tried again, and again, and again to talk to the Met but it’s not keen to start squawking. Again – where’s the transparency here? Is the freeze on £1 million plus IT contracts, which have often famously been doomed by bureucratic cack-handedness, just a smokescreen to keep the media and the taxpayer at bay?