Will suppliers tolerate IT contracts being published in full?

For tonight’s R4 File on 4 broadcast on Government IT projects and the NPfIT, the BBC carried out a wide-ranging interview with the Conservative Shadow Health Minister Stephen O’Brien.

Some of its questions were about Conservative plans to publish in full all contracts over £25,000. This plan has worried some government suppliers.

They include some loss-leading prices in their contracts, which they make up in other ways such as providing staff for useful work that’s not always directly associated with the contract. Full disclosure of the contracts could give a misleading impression of their pricing, they say.

BBC: Would the Conservative Party really publish all IT contracts in full if you become the next government?
 

O’Brien: “The commitment we have made is that they are [published] subject to certain caveats.. not least, for example, national security. But the principle would be that all contracts with  the government, all public sector contracts worth a value above £25,000,  would be published …”

BBC: Do you really think suppliers would tolerate that?

O’Brien:”… They will realise this is the way that the trade will take place,and these will be the terms of the business. Of course if you have a very good product and a very good service, you’re competitive in yourprice, not only do you have very little to hide but you would actuallywant to proclaim that, not least because it’s very good marketing forfuture business.

“So there is actually a benefit to disclosingthings. And for somebody like myself, who’s been in the privatesector supplying governments in the past – building  materials – I knowfull well it’s important as part of that negotiation that transparency[is] one of the keenest ways that taxpayers get value for money.

“Withoutit, there’s real danger that taxpayers are not getting real value formoney. I certainly argue the NHS National Programme for IT is a primeexample of where taxpayers have not been receiving the best value formoney, let alone the grave disappointments that patients have had thatthe programme, as designed by this government, has not delivered  good healthcare outcomes for them.”

Links:

BBC R4 File on 4 tonight – BBC website

Minister to sign new NPfIT deals before the General Election? – ComputerWeekly.com

Minister to sew up new NPfIT deals before an election? – [full version of CW article] IT Projects Blog

BT to offer videoconferencing over NPfIT N3 network – BT website

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Hi Tony,

You know my stance on this - why shouldn't every contract signed be digitised and stored centrally. Taxpayers are paying for all this IT spend, we don't get to vote on the contracts; so we should have the ability to see every contract. I love the 'loss-leader pricing' comments - most vendors don't have ANY published prices and this has led to signficant cost disparities across Trusts. We see one trust with paying 30K and another paying 300K. This is what they don't want us to see. I say, once a contract is signed, digitise it, store it centrally, and grant public access to it.

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