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URGH! GPS, that's another delayed mess you've got us into - suppliers

£1.2bn framework rush: Lights are on but no one's home

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Government Procurement Services is running well behind schedule on the forthcoming £1.2bn replacement to its exiting IT product framework before tender documents have even been dispatched to suppliers.

Tech firms told us they had been due to receive the documented structure for the Commodity IT Hardware and Software (CITHS) lots in late summer, but this has only just happened, as we revealed last week.

Under the original timelines, the process should be well under way with the agreement due to kick off from the start of February ahead of its predecessor closing on the 28th of that month.

"GPS told us to expect the primary information notice in September, a supplier bootcamp in October, the OJEU contract notice in November and contracts awarded before the New Year," said one.

Sources agreed that the professional buying group underestimated the hundreds of man hours required to submit tenders, which rather beggars believe given its reason for being.

"Sometimes there can be four or five people working on these, a whole raft of people from legal, to finance to solutions teams. We even have proof readers come in to check through the documents," said one.

This is why SMEs find it tough to compete for government business, with the real numbers transacted outside of the G-Cloud agreement. Even if they find resources to submit tenders, there is no guarantee of business.

One solution our sources reckon GPS is considering is to extend CITHS again: it had been due to close on 28 August, roughly three years after launch, but suppliers signed an Agreement Change Note to extend it until February because it was more popular than the ITH&S alternative.

Legally GPS is not allowed to extend CITHS by a further half year because it made no provisions for doing so under the original OJEU contract. Suppliers, however, are unlikely to make a fuss.

This is not the first time GPS has "cocked up" government framework tenders: ITH&S was beset with delays; the Application Development Delivery Support Services framework was cancelled during the bidding stage; and a recent MoJ contract suffered a similar fate.

We asked GPS for comment but it has yet to reply, there may have been some delay in the comms system.

The Channel has also asked the Cabinet Office why it is giving the green light to multi-billion-pound framework - the CITHS replacement is one of three on the way - when cloud first is supposed to have been mandated for public sector buyers.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has yet to pick up the blower. ®

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