Northern Ireland Libraries is launching a formal procurement of a £60m IT contract to replace incumbent supplier Fujitsu following a two-year delay costing taxpayers some £12m.
According to a tender notice, the public-sector organisation responsible for libraries in the UK territory wants to "secure a strategic partner who will deliver modern and innovative IT services."
"Initially the requirement is to manage the legacy services for a period of time whilst planning and implementing new systems and services," the notice said. "It is envisaged this will entail a combined transition and transformation phase and it is essential that continuity of day to day library services is maintained throughout."
That legacy system was managed by Fujitsu under a five-year deal worth £25m from 2013. The contract included an option to extend for two years, which Libraries NI took in 2018, taking the total value to £33.6m.
But the authority had planned to launch the procurement in 2018. In June that year, a prior information notice said the contract notice for procurement would be available in November.
That procurement did not get off the ground.
The organisation's Business Support Committee began considering a "Strategic Outline Case" for a new contract during 2017/2018, according to the Libraries NI Annual Report and Accounts [PDF] for the financial year.
In its 2018/2019 annual report [PDF], Northern Ireland Libraries stated: "Further work was carried out in 2018/19 to deliver replacement arrangements for the current... managed service contract. The replacement project... is planned to deliver Information Systems to Libraries NI in the medium to long term."
In 2019, it said it would seek approval for an outline business case and commence procurement for an alternative contract by 30 June 2019. It said it would review and ensure appropriate project governance structures and resources are in place to deliver the new project.
But in January last year, the authority was forced to renew the Fujitsu contract without competition, in a deal worth £12m, after running out of time to launch a tender process. The contract was due to expire at the end of April 2020.
Procuring an interim system and moving some services to Enterprise Shared Services, run by the Northern Ireland government, "isn't possible as the system and licences are not readily interchangeable or interoperable. Any attempt to transfer systems without an adequate transition period poses an unjustifiable risk of business disruption and total network failure," a procurement notice read.
The 29-month extension to the Fujitsu deal was arranged because "a procurement for a replacement contract was expected before the expiry, however, this has not proved possible," the notice added.
Fujitsu "designed the ICT infrastructure and developed it to integrate the full portfolio of local, data-centre and all line of business services for 1,300 public access computers and 800 corporate users on a 24/7/365 basis. The software licencing [sic] is tied into the current agreement and will take considerable time to replace whilst sustaining system functionality," it said.
Still, despite the late replacement of the current deal, and the £12m bill, Northern Ireland Libraries can look forward to new corporate desktops and peripherals, a library management system, cash management system, self-service functions, a "virtual library service", corporate services, and an "effective management information and business intelligence system to inform decision making" as part of the new deal.
The proposed contract is expected to last seven years with the option to extend for a further three periods of up to 12 months each. ®