Qinetiq sues over cancelled police IT project

[A summary of each other’s writs follows.]

IT services and systems supplier Qinetiq is suing the National Policing Improvement Agency after the agency cancelled a national web-based system, the Police Portal, which was designed to help the public report incidents and hate crimes online.

The Police Portal was also designed to allow the public to contact the police during a terrorist incident such as the London bombings, and would have provided secure communications between police forces.

Qinetiq claimed that the NPIA, which oversees national police IT, caused delay and hindrance after September 2006, which prevented the project from progressing.

Using the portal a police force might have created a message advising “Protected Registrants” of an impending major incident and might then have created a separate message advising the public not to travel to an area.

A writ was issued by Qinetiq’s lawyers, Wragge and Co, which said the agency had failed to provide consistent and timely data needed during the project, and was “routinely failing to return telephone calls, or answer e-mails and correspondence”.

The agency continued to act in breach of contract terms, Qinetiq claimed. The supplier continued to work to resolve all outstanding minor issues, and tests “re-affirm the suitability of the Police Portal to go live”.

The Police Portal contract was cancelled in July 2007, about three months after the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) was abolished [in April 2007], and its work transferred to the NPIA. 

In a contract of September 2005 – later amended by change control notices and requests for change – PITO had commissioned Qinetiq, for £8.6m, to design, specify, install, test and implement a new UK national Police Portal system for use by police forces around the country.  

Qinetiq’s writ claimed that between September 2006 and July 2007, PITO caused significant delays and hindrances in some of the following ways:  

– failing to provide system data sets by the dates Qinetiq requested, or within a reasonable time afterwards, leading to the late start of work on data migration.

– “unreasonably insisting on non critical issues being dealt with in a manner which prevented effective progress towards User Acceptance Testing and the system going live.”

– “failing to act reasonably in relation to the Requests for Change [including] repeatedly submitting and/or changing and/or withdrawing RFCs …”

 – failing to ensure that Qinetiq were provided with consistent instructions as to what was required of the Police Portal, in particular what was needed by way of training and permission rights

– falling to agree either “informal limited function user testing” of the Police Portal system or formal User Acceptance Testing on a continuing basis up to the start of UAT … for the purpose of validating the Police Portal incrementally. Qinetic said that such user testing would have “both avoided significant additional work at a later stage and would have enabled go-live to take place as quickly as possible by eliminating (alternatively minimising) the risks associated with the final UAT acceptance procedures.

–  failing to co-ordinate in an effective and timely way differing requests of internal customers of NPIA, leading to Qinetiq receiving instructions which were late or conflicting, or both.  

 – failing to provide test scripts to enable Qinetiq to simulate UAT tests before starting UAT

– unnecessarily delaying eventual entry into UAT by prolonging negotiations over the Test Approach Document for about eight weeks, while refusing to allow Qinetiq any extensions of time.

Qinetiq said it “continued to deploy very considerable additional resources and to take all reasonable steps to eliminate or mitigate the consequences of the delays and hindrances caused by PITO/NPIA”.   

In a letter of 4 July 2007 the NPIA wrote to Qinetiq saying the system had failed UAT; and on 17 July 2007 the agency terminated the contract.  Qinetiq responded by setting out in detail why it considered the NPIA was not entitled to terminate except by giving notice in accordance with the contract.   

The NPIA’s solicitors, Winckworth Sherwood, issued a writ against Qinetiq in February 2008, six months after Qinetiq’s, seeking more than £3m in losses and damages. 

A judge has paused a hearing on the NPIA’s writ indefinitely. A case based on Qinetiq’s writ is due to be heard in the High Court next April.

The NPIA’s writ had claimed that Qinetiq’s system testing revealed a high number of defects, which the supplier was slow to fix. “Qinetiq failed to perform its obligations under the Contract either properly or not at all,” said the NPIA’s writ.

It also claimed: “The test failure rate in key areas of functionality was approximately 95.5% and it was evident that there were serious issues with the design of the Police Portal including… inefficient processes and cumbersome navigation.”

The system failed a test to mimic the use of BT’s portal after the London bombings on 7 July 2005, the NPIA claimed.

The NPIA’s writ said: “The London ‘7/7’ scenario test was designed to mimic the level of usage of the [pre-existing] BT Portal following the terrorist attacks on the London public transport system of 7 July 2005. The Portal failed this test. The Portal was intended to provide services that would be of particular value during such an incident and the consequences of the Portal failing in such a scenario was potentially very serious,”

NPIA said the portal’s content management system was commissioned to rapidly and accurately manage all major static and moving media formats including GIF, TIF and PDF and mpeg. It should also handle sound (including WAV files) and static and moving images from mobile devices, and security to the “UK RESTRICTED – HIGH” government standard, rising potentially to “UK-CONFIDENTIAL”.  The portal’s news and appeals submenu was to present links such partner sites as BBC’s Crimewatch and missing children.  

In its writ the NPIA said it expressed concern to Qinetiq in March 2006 about “Qinetiq’s failure to involve the users and decision not to produce proper technical specifications”.

The NPIA’s writ said: “The defects discovered during the course of the User Acceptance Testing were substantial and represented serious deficiencies in the Portal leaving NPIA with no confidence in the underlying integrity of the system.” 

The NPIA also claimed that:

–  Qinetiq refused to adhere to the agreed System Testing and UAT exit and entry criteria.  

– although the number of failed tests showed a downward trend using Qinetiq’s metric, it did not provide an accurate measure of progress

– the tests that were not failing were less complex than those that were failing

– some tests were classed as “nearly passed” and were not recorded as failed tests

– Qinetiq’s metric did not take account of the number of defects discovered during a test

– the Portal would have required workarounds and/or additional training for staff before go-live.

– police incident reports linked to describe a suspect, victim or witness were found during System Testing not to work if “cookies” were disabled

– a “Latest News” scrolling ticker on the homepage was not available if Javascript was disabled

– several parts of the Portal used appropriate HMTL

The original contractual delivery dates for the first two phases of the portal were 31 March 2006 and 7 August 2006, later changed to 8 December 2006 and 2 March 2007. NPIA said delays occurred for which Qinetiq was responsible. “The replacement portal underwent User Acceptance Testing in May and June 2007 but failed to pass. The replacement portal was rejected.

 It’s likely that one of the NPIA’s challenges at next year’s hearing in the High Court will be to show that its decision to cancel the system was unconnected with its review of its major projects to reduce their number.

A spokeswoman for the NPIA said, “The Police Portal remains the subject of ongoing litigation in the Technology and Construction Court. Each party’s claim has been set out in its respective statement of case, the most recent of which was filed by NPIA on 19 May 2008.”

A spokesman for Qinetiq said, “Qinetiq has issued legal proceedings against the NPIA, which are currently extant so we are not in a position to comment further.”

The portal was designed to replace a BT-supplied national website, the Police Portal, to enable people to send information to the police by e-mail and mobile phone

 

**

 Some of Qinetiq’s claims on Police Portal project:

Outstanding contractual payments – about £1.9m

– Wasted spending in preparation for phase two of the Police Portal – about £140,000

– Wasted spending on hardware and software and other irrevocable costs – about £916,000

– Further contractual payments owed – about £2.6m  

– Costs caused by the need to terminate licenses and support and other commitments – about £884,000

– Costs of reinstating Qinetiq’s buildings after the removal of the hosted system following the contract’s termination – about £100,000

– Wasted management time – about £221,000

 

Some of NPIA’s alleged losses on the Police Portal project:

– Costs of the tender including evaluating expressions of interest, producing a shortlist of bidders, debriefing unsuccessful suppliers and assessing best and final offers –  about £163,000

– Sums paid to Qinetiq – £1.77m

– Consultancy fees including travel and subsistence – £915,175

– Staff costs – about £708,000

– Travel and subsistence – £15,728

– Miscellaneous costs including payments to BT for migrating data to the new Portal – about £326,000

– Payments to Cable and Wireless for the installation and line rental of the Criminal Justice Extranet for email and encryption and access to the private side of the Portal by police forces – about £236,000

– Payments to Blue 8 Technologies for supplying Gazetteer data to provide information for routing on the replacement portal – about £7,397

Links:

Will new Police Portal be used?

Qinetiq sues National Policing Improvement Agency after it cancels web portal project

 Why was Police Portal scrapped?

Police portal scrapped by NPIA 

 Police shut non-urgent crime reporting portal

The original Police Portal – one of its successes

PITO awards replacement portal contract to Qinetiq

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