The UK’s Department for Work and Pensions has handed Accenture a £20m contract extension, without outside competition, to try to keep some seriously ageing applications and infrastructure running.
In a tender document, the DWP said it was extending for up to three years a contract with the outsourcing and consultancy firm in order to “mitigate the high risk of disruption to the critical public services these applications support.”
In 2011, Accenture won the initial contract for the application deployment service (ADEP), which included support for the £2bn push to build the government’s controversial Universal Credit system.
According to a statement published at the time, ADEP was set to be worth from £50m to £70m per year for the initial seven years. It was designed to offer “application development and maintenance services for the Application Suite used by external customers who contact DWP for benefits directly, via the telephone or website.”
It was also intended to “help DWP make substantial cost-savings, deliver key programs, such as Universal Credit, and provide the most appropriate services to citizens.”
Public contracts can be legally awarded without competition in certain technical circumstances. In the tender document, the DWP said these conditions were met for the contract extension because there “is a complex technology stack and legacy applications in the hosting environments written in outdated software languages.
“The technology stack is aged and requires significant upgrading that would be extremely difficult without existing knowledge of the solution. Transferring responsibility for managing, supporting and modifying the solution to another supplier would therefore carry a high risk of disruption to service continuity, with elements that another supplier may be unable to support or replicate,” it said.
It is unclear whether the ageing technology stack and legacy applications include Universal Credit itself. The DWP has been contacted for clarification but has yet to respond to The Register’s request for more information.
In 2018, the DWP took the option to extend the Accenture ADEP contract for three years, and the current contract is due to run out in November 2021. The DWP has therefore extended the contract for three years up to 1 November 2024.
Although the ADEP was formed to help create applications for Universal Credit, it also supports applications outside the controversial programme. For example, it supports the application Pension Transformation Programme Customer Account Manager which is based on a customised version of Siebel’s CRM software. It provides Pension Centres and other departments with integrated telephony and offers agents access to pensions records based on a national insurance search.
“The application has interfaces to various DWP applications either calling data as required, and/or updating data to other applications. Therefore, it is a critical application for DWP to capture Pension customer’s data and enabling accurate processing of these customer pension related applications,” the tender notice said.
The DWP has not yet answered questions about the age of the application, but the DWP has been using Siebel, which became part of Oracle in 2005, since at least 2006.
A DWP spokesperson did say, however: "The DWP has long established procurement processes, which were followed in this case, and Accenture were selected." ®