News

IT suppliers relaxed about contract visibility

Karl Flinders

IT and BPO suppliers Atos and Capita say they are relaxed about being more open about the often obscured details of large government contracts, as outsourcing giants are put under pressure by MPs to open up to public scrutiny.

The Public Accounts Committee wants to see financial information on all government contracts revealed under what is known as open-book accounting. This follows high profile failures of large government service providers Serco and G4S, which overcharged the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds on a contract to electronically tag criminals.

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According to The Independent, IT and BPO providers Atos and Capita, suggested they were relaxed about making government contracts less obscured from public examination.

The National Audit Office reported that £6.6bn was spent by the public sector on four outsourced service providers including IT services suppliers.

In its report, The Role of Major Contractors in the Delivery of Public Services, the NAO revealed the UK public sector and central government spent £700m with Atos, £1.6bn with Capita, £3bn with Serco and £1.3bn with G4S. The first two are major providers of ICT to the public sector.

The NAO said contracting out to third parties accounts for around half of the £187bn the public sector spends on goods and services each year.

But it said better public scrutiny is needed across government contracting. “There have been several high-profile allegations of poor performance, irregularities and misreporting over the past few months," said the report.

Separately, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is investigating the market supplying IT and communications to the public sector.

The OFT intends to “examine whether competition in this sector could work better and the reasons why it may not be working as well as it could”.

The move follows a call to suppliers and buyers of IT services to the public sector to provide information about their experiences.


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