Eight resellers have been awarded places on a £5bn framework contract led by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire, a county in England's East Midlands.
Why a modest authority would seem to be buying such a huge value of IT products is down to the peculiarities of UK procurement practices. Listed on the framework contract award notice are end-user devices, audio-visual equipment, network infrastructure, IT peripherals, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), operating systems and utility software, and a full range of commoditised and commercial software from different vendors – all of which could be bought under the framework.
An earlier contract notice put the length of the deal at four years.
Winning resellers with the potential to grab a stake in the £5bn bounty (we counted the zeros) are CDW, CGI, Computacenter, Insight Direct, Specialist Computer Centres, Softcat, Trustmarque Solutions (part of Capita), and XMA. But just because they get a place on the framework does not mean the authority can guarantee 10-figure spending.
The point of framework deals is that the public bodies commit to certain level of spending and suppliers agree reasonable prices, expecting a certain volume. Authorities can then buy off the framework with a reduced volume of paperwork, given suppliers are already qualified to meet legal requirements. But observers question their value when there are so many frameworks out there, and there is no guarantee of the value of spending.
Just this month, the government awarded a £900m framework for printers and related devices.
Last year, Crown Commercial Services (CCS) issued a contract for back-office software with an estimated street value of £1.2bn, while Wales's National Procurement Service has named the winners of a £300m framework deal for a public-sector shopping trolley of IT services, hardware, software, and consulting.
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire will not be alone in buying £5bn in software, services, and kit from the deal. Last year, its commercial wing changed its name and, in partnership with Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner, formed Mint Commercial Services, which says it provides "bespoke commercial services to Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire police Forces, and other public sector clients."
Another tender from the organisation, in this case for pensions services, said buyers might include UK police forces, the national crime agency and all UK fire and rescue services "and/or any body which through appropriate jurisdiction become their successor".
As such, the £5bn figure can be added to a long list of potential spending which may or may not come from a very wide range of public-sector bodies, each of which has access to multiple framework deals. ®