The council said that a "partnership" style of working, close management of the relationship with the suppliers and the option to outsource elsewhere will protect it against unsatisfactory service provision.
Earlier this year, Hackney's outsourcing contract with ITnet came to an acrimonious end after disputes over quality.
The Lewisham deal will see ICL and KPMG deliver a harmonised and updated IT infrastructure of servers, desktops and databases followed by an optimisation phase that will identify business processes which can be rationalised, with the suppliers carrying out work on a risk-and-reward basis.
The council said much of the optimisation and all of the delivery phase can be outsourced to other suppliers if it is not satisfied with the contractors' work. Risk-and-reward will operate in the delivery phase, where ICL/KPMG will identify possible savings at their own cost and only share in savings of successful implementations. A board of senior council staff will monitor the contract.
Lewisham is one of 20 "beacon authorities", an accolade bestowed by the Government on authorities noted for accessibility of services. Lewisham has a 2004 deadline because it is a "pilot authority" for the Government's plan of putting all services online by 2005.
The council aims to enable access by citizens to all council services so that, for example, a family moving into the area could register online as residents and find out about childcare or doctors, and make arrangements to pay council tax.
Rob Whitehead, deputy chief executive for Lewisham Council, said the borough aims to do this by turning its systems outward to the citizen in a way that will not add a layer of cost to the process. "We want to design the council in a way that makes it customer-facing, to join up information for citizens, to target information towards them and develop active citizenship."
Outsourcing consultant Robert Morgan of Morgan Chambers said that Lewisham's safeguards were standard. "The council is fooling itself if it thinks that optimisation and delivery of services can easily be provided by another supplier. It is best done by those that have day-to-day knowledge of the systems," he said.