Contract-award notice reveals IT heavyweight has been signed to a four-year deal
The Home Office has signed Fujitsu to a £48m contract to support its own mainframe technology – in a deal that was directly awarded to the tech giant after a market-engagement exercise failed to generate sufficient response from alternative suppliers.
Newly published procurement documents reveal that the department entered into a four-year contract with Fujitsu on 1 April. The engagement relates to “support and maintenance” of the mainframe server technology that underpins the National Police Computer (NPC). This includes both the core datacentre, located in Hendon in north-west London, as well as disaster recovery facilities.
The PNC – a major national law-enforcement database, housing information on 13 million people and more than 60 million vehicles – has been operational since 1974 and is built on Fujitsu mainframe technology.
The contract to support and maintain its underlying infrastructure was awarded as a single-tender action – a procurement method which involves a deal being directly awarded to a supplier without any prior competitive process.
Use of a single-tender action typically requires the buyer to provide justification for doing so and, in the contract-award notice, the Home Office indicates that it used the non-competitive process “due to a lack of response” from potential providers to a previous “market engagement” exercise.
Records show that an opportunity notice related to the contract was published in February 2021.
According to report published by the National Audit Office a year ago, the Fujitsu mainframe hardware that supports the PNC was due to “reach the end of its supported life by 31 December 2021”.
By the time the new support deal with the vendor runs out, the Home Office is scheduled to have replaced the Police National Computer with the National Law Enforcement Data Service – which is slated to go live in 2025.
This date in five years later than originally planned and the programme – which was reset in 2020 – has also seen costs rise to £1.1bn: a total of £429m more than the Home Office had originally expected.
Although it has now put in place provisions for hardware support, the PNC also faces the possibility of core software platforms reaching their end of life before the NLEDS is ready.
The NAO found that PNC relies on database technology from vendor Software AG that is “only supported on the Fujitsu mainframe until 31 December 2023”.
“The [Home Office] has an option to extend the contract for this support for a further 12 months but it has not yet agreed this with the supplier,” the auditors’ report added. “If NLEDS is not ready, the PNC will need to be moved off the mainframe onto a supported operating system from 2025 or run unsupported. The department told us that it had decided to accept the risk of running the PNC without support for the database for 12 months after December 2024.”