HMRC signs £85m five-year deal for customs software and support

IT reseller SCC wins contract

Credit: Danny Howard/CC BY 2.0

HM Revenue and Customs has signed a five-year £85m contract for the delivery of software and support for the IT platforms that underpin the UK’s post-Brexit customs system. 
The Customs Declaration Service (CDS) – which began operating in 2018 – is based on IBM’s Declaration Management System software. The accompanying support contract, won by IT reseller SCC with support services “backed off to IBM”, was signed in 2016 and expired on 30 September.  

Newly published commercial documents reveal that SCC has retained the support deal for a further five years. The new engagement, which runs until the end of September 2026, will also see the tech firms provide support and professional services for the ongoing implementation and upgrades of CDS; the customs platform will have replaced the outgoing CHIEF system by 2023, when the old – nearly 30-year-old – system is finally switched off for good.  
The contract also provides an “option to create, operate or support an academy model to enable the customer to grow in-house capability, knowledge, [and] self-sufficiency”. 

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Under the terms of the new deal, SCC will also provide software licences for the IBM platforms – which, according to the text of the incoming contract, operate on a rolling indefinite basis. In the coming years, HMRC will require “updated licences for next-generation requirements [and] additional modules”. 
“The original Customs Declaration Processing (CDP) contract was for the implementation of a new core customs workflow system at the heart of CDS,” the contract said. “[HMRC] wish to continue to use DMS as the core component of CDS for a further five years. DMS is an enterprise, perpetual licence, therefore the customer requires continued support of the produce and use of goods and services provided as part of the supplier solution under the CDP contract. In addition, the customer requires development, integration, implementation and support for change, including functional and non-functional requirements, throughout the operation and evolution of CDS over the next five years to meet the customer business and IT strategic objectives.” 
With the UK less than a year into life outside the European Union – and with Brexit having more than quadrupled overnight the annual requirement for customs checks – CDS will need to adapt to ongoing legislative and operational changes. 
This may include the need to “accommodate required business changes [such as] iterating business rules for GB [and] ROW (rest of world) and Northern Ireland Protocols, alignment with EU Multi-Annual Strategic Plan for Standardisation of Customs, [and] compliance with EU Union Customs Code”. 
HMRC may “require additional assurances of DMS capacity to handle… growth in declarations anticipated as part of economic and legislative changes and the migration of traders from CHIEF to CDS”. 
When work began on CDS in 2015, the plans were to develop a system that could handle up to 100 million customs declarations per year – well in excess of the pre-Brexit annual total of about 55 million. The decision to leave the European Union meant that the platform had to be scaled up to be able to cope with more than 250 million declarations annually. 
Despite the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office airing a great deal of concern about whether HMRC had been given sufficient resources to deliver the project to its suddenly and significantly expanded specifications, CDS successfully went live in 2018. 


Sam Trendall

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