Capita, Serco, Sopra Steria to write cheat-sheets for UK.gov in case they collapse

'Living wills' part of politician and contractor bid to engender confidence in outsourcing

woman holds contract agreement to sign

Capita, Serco and Sopra Steria are drafting "living wills" with the government in case they collapse – a measure agreed to after the Carillion debacle.

After the multinational construction firm was liquidated in January, the extent of the government's reliance on it became clear as it struggled to gather the information necessary to step in and take over.

This put the spotlight on other outsourcing deals, with the government under pressure to make better preparations for a similar crisis – as well as re-igniting calls for more transparency around crucial contracts.

As a result, the Cabinet Office is attempting to put some safety nets in place so it won't get caught out if another firm was to collapse.

The department said today that a number of major IT suppliers were drawing up plans "in the unlikely event of business failure where another may need to step in".

Capita, Serco and Sopra Steria have all "volunteered" to do this, and will complete these so-called living wills "within weeks", with other contractors slated to follow.

The documents will set out a plan for how the public services can be continued if the company fails, in the hope of ensuring the government can transfer the services to another firm or bring them in-house.

David Liddington, minister for the Cabinet Office, said that Carillion was a "complex business" and that the government "did not have the benefit of key organisational information that could have smoothed the management of the liquidation" when it collapsed.

"By ensuring contingency plans can be quickly put in place in the very rare event of supplier failure, we will be better prepared to maintain continuity of critical public services," he said.

The government will also run a pilot for services that are being outsourced for the first time, so it can collect data and learn lessons before jumping feet-first into full-scale service delivery.

Heart falls into crack. Photo by Shutterstock

UK.gov outsourcers must prove their 'social value' to win contracts

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The idea is to address situations like Capita's disastrous handling of the Primary Care Services project that is said to have put patients at risk – execs have since admitted that there wasn't enough due diligence at the outset and ended up "working blind" because of a lack of information.

Other measures announced this week – which were first mooted in June – focus on "social value" contracts; departments will be required to consider elements beyond the financials when procuring contracts.

Priorities here include supporting small businesses, providing employment opportunities for disadvantaged people and reducing harm to the environment.

The government has also pledged to publish previously unseen data on the performance of critical contracts, such as response rates and if they are delivering on time, and will review the Supplier's Code of Conduct. ®




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