Scottish Fire and Rescue Service cites ‘robust contingency plans’ after failed bid to find replacement supplier for new 999 IT system

After terminating a £10m contract first awarded in 2018, the emergency service extended legacy provision and relaunched procurement processes this year – which did not attract any bids, it has emerged

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service claims to have “robust contingency plans in place” despite failing to find a replacement supplier for a major new IT system on which work began six years ago.

The service first signed a reported £10m-plus deal for a new mobilising system in 2018. The contract, awarded to specialist French software firm Systel, covered the provision of new tech infrastructure to support the answering and management of emergency 999 calls from the public, as well as radio communications between first responders and other staff.

This contract was terminated in late 2022 because “the contractor has not delivered on the agreed project plan or met the milestones” for delivering the system, according to comments made at the time by leadership of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS).

In April 2023, the service spent an initial total of £2.4m extending deals with providers of legacy systems before relaunching a procurement exercise for a new mobilising system on 11 January 2024 .

The deadline for bids under this procedure was initially 11 March – subsequently pushed back to 28 March – and the contract notice said that “the timescales… [are] reflective of the urgency of the requirement and is being undertaken due to the termination of a previous contract”.

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Despite such urgency, there will seemingly be further delays to the project to implement the 999 system; SFRS has this week issued updated commercial notices indicating that the procurement had been cancelled because “no tenders or requests to participate were received or all were rejected”.

Responding to enquiries from PublicTechnology, the service confirmed that not a single bid was received during the procurement window.

SFRS did not provide any information on whether it would launch a further buying process, or when this might happen – nor any further detail on what additional measures might be required in the meantime to ensure the ongoing functionality of the existing system.

But assistant chief officer David Lockhart, director of prevention, protection and preparedness, claimed that the service has strong back-up plans to cope with the latest setback.

“The tender process for our New Mobilising System ended in March following a six-week notice period through Public Contracts Scotland,” he said. “Unfortunately, we received no bids and could not progress with a preferred contractor. As an emergency service, we have well-developed and robust contingency plans in place for any potential scenario.”

SFRS’s current mobilising system connects three operations control facilities in Dundee, Edinburgh, and Johnstone. The existing CCMS and ICCS platforms were due to have been shut down by now, but remain in operation – for what now seems to be an indeterminate period of further time.

Sam Trendall

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