Fujitsu says UK Foreign Office can't count in lawsuit over loss of £350m comms contract

Department's response? We might have made a typo

Fujitsu has accused the Foreign Office of being unable to count after mandarins awarded a £350m IT outsourcing contract to incumbent rival Vodafone.

In court documents seen by The Register, Fujitsu has accused the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of making "arithmetic errors and other manifest errors of assessment" when it re-awarded Vodafone its global connectivity services contract in November 2018.

The four-year framework agreement would have seen the winning bidder supplying voice and data services to 550 embassies and other British government posts in 170 countries worldwide. Fujitsu's lawyers, Baker & McKenzie LLP, are arguing in the High Court that the FCO failed to apply its own bid scoring methodology properly, resulting in Vodafone unfairly winning the contract.

Fujitsu said FCO civil servants had broken the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, the UK implementation of an EU legal directive.

"Absent such errors, Fujitsu would have been the successful tenderer; alternatively there is a substantial chance that it would have been," said the company in a legal filing seen by The Reg. "The Department is accordingly in breach of the 2015 Regulations, in a manner which risks causing substantial losses to Fujitsu."

The Japan-headquartered IT services biz had told the FCO it could supply 2Gb/s services through "a combination of MPLS Internet and VSAT connectivity" by subcontracting them to three "connectivity partners"; Colt Technologies, Centurylink and Tata. Fujitsu also said it could provide services that were backhauled to the UK with a later option for local breakout if the FCO wanted to go down that route.

In the final scoring of the six bids, Fujitsu scored a total of 91 per cent while Vodafone scored 92 per cent. Fujitsu argued that civil servants did not round scores "to two decimal places... contrary to the [Invitation to Tender]". The outsourcer also said that in a detailed breakdown, different scores were given to the same item in different sections of the FCO's formal contract award decision with no explanation of why.

Of course we can count – we just can't type

Responding to Fujitsu's legal filing, the FCO produced a table showing it had calculated the disputed scores to two decimal places before rounding them off – but admitted that Fujitsu's version of events, based on the report sent to it by the FCO when it lost the contract, was "broadly correct". It also admitted that one critical disputed score "was a typing error as has been explained in correspondence".

FCO mandarins also agreed they had "failed to provide Fujitsu with any such scores" broken down to two decimal places, as it said it would in the original invitation to tender.

However, the government department claimed Fujitsu was not offering proper hybrid connectivity services as the firm had insisted, stating: "On the contrary, it was clear from the Claimant's response to the MSL [master site list – bidders had to detail how they would supply each of the 550 sites] that the different routes which it proposed for each site where resilience was required used the same connectivity (i.e. either internet or MPLS, not both)."

The FCO also said Fujitsu "did not include details of where regional Points of Presence ('POPs') (where regional breakout would occur) were to be located or the costs of their provision," arguing that this meant Fujitsu "did not have the underlying regional gateway infrastructure" required by the contract.

FCO lawyers from London law firm Dentons also said Fujitsu had tried to dodge liability for "any faults due to the last mile provider" in its original bid.

Fujitsu is claiming "damages reflecting the loss of profit", "wasted bid costs", interest on any damages and costs the court awards it, and a court order that would kick Vodafone off the contract.

The lawsuit, filed in the Technology and Construction division of the High Court, continues. ®

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