Treasury signs £1m helpdesk deal for public finances IT system

The OSCAR II platform – through which public bodies provide information on budgets, spending and workforce – was first introduced two years ago but ‘performance issues’ have resulted in problems for users

HM Treasury has signed a £1m-plus deal for the provision of user support and service management for the UK’s central IT system for collecting and collating public finance data.

The second iteration of the department’s Online System for Central Accounting and Reporting – known as OSCAR II – began operating in summer 2019 and processes were migrated to the platform in the months thereafter. The system had completely replaced its predecessor by the end of 2021.

The tool is now used by organisations across the public sector, including central government agencies, local authorities, and public corporations. The annual financial accounts of about 10,000 organisations submitted to OSCAR II are used to create the Whole of Government Accounts each year document, which the Treasury intends to provide a “comprehensive… picture of the financial position of the UK public sector”.

The most recent versions have been published more than a year later than normal, with the 2020-21 document only being released in July of this year.

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The delays have, in part, been caused by issues encountered by OSCAR II during its early months in operation.

A year ago Treasury director general for public spending Cat Little told a parliamentary committee that “New system capacity issues have emerged over the summer months and at times some entities have had difficulty in accessing and using the system,” she said. “These performance issues have impacted all processes that use OSCAR II.”

Users that experience such problems will now able to access a dedicated helpdesk facility which, according to newly published commercial information, will be provided on behalf of the Treasury by IT reseller Softcat.

The Buckinghamshire-based firm was awarded a three-year contract by the department, which came into effect on 8 September and is valued at almost £1.1m.

According to the procurement notice, the deal will cover the “provision of a user-facing service desk to provide first line support to the users of OSCAR II; this also includes the provision of an IT service management toolset”.

Sam Trendall

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