EDS edged out of courts' IT contract despite lower bid

Leaked documents show that services supplier EDS was edged out of a competition for a recently abandoned new magistrates court...

Leaked documents show that services supplier EDS was edged out of a competition for a recently abandoned new magistrates court system although its bid proposal was tens of millions of pounds less than the price submitted by the winning bidder Fujitsu.

The irony of EDS' withdrawal from bidding for the Libra system at the Lord Chancellor's Department is that, after winning the contract, Fujitsu has now secured a renegotiated deal to receive a £50m increase on its original bid price while not delivering the core software.

Before the award of the contract to Fujitsu in 1998, Geoffrey Hoon, the minister then responsible for the Libra contract, had made it clear in speeches that the core caseworking software was the main reason that the Lord Chancellor's Department wanted to buy new magistrates court systems.

The aim of the core caseworking system was to speed up the criminal justice process by providing an electronic means of transferring case files and other records between magistrates courts, the Probation Service, police, the Prison Service and other departments.

But the Lord Chancellor's Department announced last week that Fujitsu will not now deliver the core caseworking software. Instead Fujitsu will be paid £232m - nearly £50m more than its original bid price of £183m - to deliver Microsoft Office systems and a secure national network on which the core system, if it had been delivered, would have run.

This is nearly twice as much as EDS said it planned to charge for the entire Libra system in a letter to the Lord Chancellor's Department in July 1998. The EDS bid included the core Libra caseworking software, office products and the national network. In the letter, EDS also said it planned to have completed the roll-out of the core Libra system by the end of 2002.

EDS withdrew from the bidding in May 1998 shortly after being told by the department that its proposals were "high-risk". There were further discussions over the possibility of EDS re-entering the competition, but the supplier wrote to the department in July 1998 outlining its concerns about the tendering process.

EDS also told the Lord Chancellor's Department in July 1998 that if it had bid, its price for the contract would have been equivalent to £120m, compared to Fujitsu's bid price of £183m.

The Lord Chancellor's Department told Computer Weekly that EDS' indicative bid price was unrealistic - a claim denied by the supplier - and that the company withdrew voluntarily from the bidding.

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