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MoJ admits to splashing out on 2.3 MILLION Oracle licences

That's at least 33 licences for every civil servant

£10 notes. Pic: Howard Lake
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The Ministry of Justice has admitted to holding 2.3 million Oracle software licences, The Register can reveal.

The licence breakdown of 53 separate Oracle products includes 961,000 “internet expense” licences, 250,000 for three separate for human resources licences, and 100,000 payroll licences, according to a Freedom of Information response.

The FOI request was directed to the MoJ's headquarters, which has around 3,000 staff. But even if those licences included every single member of staff employed by the MoJ and its agencies, that would still total 33 licences per head across its 70,000 staff.

That suggests the department could be paying for more licences than it needs. The MoJ refused to disclose how much in total it was splashing on Oracle – citing "commercial confidentiality."

However, it is not the only department to have an apparent glut of licences. The department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also has 2,000,000 Oracle licences. As a smaller department, that works out at 200 per head.

The MoJ transferred its people, services and IT to the Cabinet Office-run shared services centre in November last year, following its own botched attempt to build an ERP shared services centre for £56m.

However, an FOI response sent to The Register revealed there had been no licensing cost savings yet to be associated with the move. The licensing agreements are currently retained in the MoJ's name.

The licences themselves are held in perpetuity so never actually expire themselves, said the MoJ. However, it said its Technology Oracle Support and Maintenance Shared Services Oracle Support contracts will expire in April 2016.

The MoJ said it hopes to save £100m over the lifetime of the shared services centre contract and £2.5m in licence costs over the next three years.

A spokesman claimed to The Register: "Comparing licences with staffing levels is misleading - often the licences are for the amount of times software is used, not the number of users. When signing contracts we always seek the most cost effective option in line with government wide procurement rules."

It is unclear if the centre has, so far, made any significant savings for the government.

Earlier this month The Register revealed that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills had a change of heart about moving to the Steria centre, embarrassingly citing the costs and risks of the project as "no longer viable".

One government insider remarked that Oracle is known to be "extreme in its defence of existing licensing agreements and in stopping any flexibility." ®

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