Cabinet Office clarifies ‘negotiated settlement’ over tech contract

The department’s chief had previously indicated that deal had been terminated for ‘non-performance’, but has now written to MPs to apologise for this inaccuracy and reveal details of payoff agreement

Cabinet Office permanent secretary Cat Little has apologised for inaccurate comments she made in a letter to MPs last month about an IT contractor.

The perm sec wrote to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on 11 April, answering questions sent to her predecessor, Alex Chisholm, following up on his appearance at the committee in February.

The initial letter from Little, who took over from Chisholm in April, said an Office for Government Property contract to build a new property database, let to supplier Landmark Information Group in October 2020, was terminated in July 2022 due to “non-performance” and “non-completion”.

In a follow-up letter, sent on 10 May but published last week, Little said she has since “been made aware of an inaccuracy in the letter” in relation to the IT project.

“The formal termination actually came about through a negotiated settlement agreement with the supplier,” she said. “I apologise that this is the context of my first letter to you.”

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Little said the details of the settlement – the Cabinet Office ended up paying £585,000 for the work, which was 60% complete when the contract came to an end – “remain correct”.

She added that she has “stressed the importance of ensuring the accuracy of any and all information provided to parliament with the officials who provided me with the information that went into the original letter”.

“Please accept my sincere apologies for the error and for any inconvenience this has caused to your work,” she said.

In her letter in April, Little said the Cabinet Office had held a lessons-learned exercise after the contract came to an end, which found the need for more in-house expertise, more streamlined governance arrangements and a better balance between price and quality in future procurement exercises. It also said the suppliers should provide a delivery roadmap with smaller and more iterative milestones, with payments under the contract linked to those milestones, and that “ways of working” should be embedded into the contract.

Little said the issues diagnosed in the exercise were all addressed in the specification for the reprocurement of the contract, which led to the OGP procuring a commercial, off-the-shelf technology solution from Planon in June 2023, and increasing its “capability and capacity of delivery resources”.

The Planon system is “largely complete” but “has not satisfied necessary accessibility requirements yet”, Little said.

“The plan and the timeline for launch is being agreed with the provider who has taken full responsibility for this issue,” she added.

Tevye Markson

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