Every man, woman and child in the UK paid HP £21 last year

Plus other fascinating nuggets we found when carving into UK.gov's IT spending pie

Home Office

The biggest external supplier to the Home Office is Airwave Solutions; the firm’s status as provider of the UK’s emergency service communications network was built on winning the Home Office tender in 2000 to provide such a system for police forces. Airwave received £257.1m (unlike the other departments, the Home Office’s top supplier data includes VAT) from the department in 2012-13 for its police work, around a tenth of the £2.6bn the Home Office and its executive agencies spent with suppliers.

Between April and June 2012, monthly spending returns from the department included £539,000 charged by Airwave to provide services within London’s Underground system, a capability that started in 2009.

Fujitsu Services’ Alcedo subsidiary is a close third to property manager DTZ in the department’s top suppliers, receiving £134.3m as the Home Office’s biggest non-specialist IT provider. Most of this runs through its Sirius contract to provide the department with services including desktops, networks and hosting: between April to June 2012 (the latest quarter of data available), Fujitsu invoiced the department’s shared serviced directorate £6.8m for supporting desktops, laptops and peripherals and £2.1m for telephony, while it billed the UK Border Agency a further £5.8m for a range of services.

Unlike other big spending departments, the Home Office does substantial business with a number of IT suppliers: in 2012-13, IBM was its fourth-largest supplier, receiving £116.8m largely from the UK Border Agency, while Atos IT Services billed £68.2m and CSC £59.6m.

Further down the list is Rapiscan Systems, maker of the virtual clothes-removing equipment known to Register readers as perv scanners, which received £1.9m. However, it makes a range of scanning hardware for baggage, vehicles, cargo and radiation detection, as well as people. The data for the first three months of the financial year shows it invoicing the UK Border Agency for scientific equipment running costs and handling machines and equipment.

The Home Office’s top 100 supplier list no longer includes Raytheon (unless that is the identity of the redacted supplier in 24th place that received about £18m, which apparently will be revealed in January). In both 2009-10 and 2010-11 Raytheon made the top 100, received around £40m each year, but is now nowhere to be seen – rather like its cancelled contract to provide the e-Borders system.

Department of Health

The Department of Health provided a list of its top 100 suppliers, but did not include spending by NHS Connecting for Health, the section of the department which until last March ran the National Programme for IT. The government is dismantling the much-criticised central IT scheme for the NHS in England – but the money is still flowing.

It turns out that the Department of Health’s monthly spending returns for 2012-13 – which total £107.5bn, as they include funding for NHS organisations – also cover bills for the National Programme for IT. This is clear from details of payment made to the programme’s two big suppliers, BT and CSC. And these add up: BT’s bill for the 12 months came to £532.5m, while CSC charged £252.7m.

The detail shows BT charged £176.4m in pre-payments and accrued interest to NHS Connecting for Health; £114.1m specifically for the N3 broadband network that links NHS sites; and £89.6m for national "Spine" services, including summary care records and the NHS patient demographic service. BT billed a further £83m to act as the local service provider to NHS trusts in London, and £51.1m for similar services to some trusts in the south of England.

The Department of Health’s single largest payment to CSC was £52.4m, paid in September 2012 as a “de-commitment compensation”. That month saw CSC and the department agreeing that the firm would lose its exclusive right to provide clinical IT systems to NHS trusts in the north, Midlands and east of England, reportedly in return for £68m in compensation; this appears to be the pay-off, or the bulk of it.

Among the other big IT suppliers appearing in the Department of Health data, McKesson received payments totalling £45m – it runs the NHS’s Electronic Staff Record, the payroll system covering most NHS employees – and Atos got £33.2m. These figures don’t include spending by individual NHS trusts in England, or the health services of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which are run by each devolved administration.

And the winner is…

This data covers only five Whitehall departments, and although they are the five that probably spend most on IT, it doesn’t take account of the rest of the public sector, national, devolved and local. Given its exemption from the Freedom of Information Act, GCHQ’s no-doubt substantial IT budget is also excluded – although perhaps Edward Snowden will get around to leaking that at some point.

Furthermore, departments varied in how they responded to the Freedom of Information requests, with the Home Office including VAT and everyone else excluding it, and in several cases suppliers are acting as prime contractors, paying out large amounts to other firms.

So any attempt to calculate how much each big supplier earns from British taxpayers can only be an approximation. But The Register’s attempt to do just that (exclusive of VAT) sees HP at the top of the list, receiving £1.34bn, equivalent to everyone in Britain individually paying the firm £21, with the bulk of that from the MoD.

BT is not far behind with £970m; just over half comes from the Department of Health, with most of the rest divided between the MoD and DWP. Capgemini is third at £737m, all from its Aspire contract with HM Revenue and Customs.

In total, these five sections of central government spent in excess of £4.6bn with IT suppliers – roughly £73 for everyone in the country, just enough for a Microsoft Office 2010 single home user product key card. Tempting, isn’t it. ®




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