Capgemini wins £30m deal to work on UK customs

Delayed system 'vital component' of Brexit govt's enactment of the Northern Ireland Protocol

Capgemini has won a contract worth a maximum of £30m to integrate the UK tax collector's much-delayed customs platform with its other systems.

The award is part of a tranche of deals potentially worth more than £100m awarded in the last month, including a further Capgemini agreement to integrate controversial Brexit-related Inland Border Facilities.

The first project for the French outsourcing outfit is designed to "support the delivery of integration components for the Customs Declaration System (CDS)," according to a contract award notice. The two-year contract is expected to come to an end in January 2024.

IBM was contracted to build CDS in 2013. In 2018, spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) said the target date to migrate all traders from the legacy Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (Chief) system to CDS in January 2019 was "unlikely" because the platform was only due to be released just a month earlier.

In a contract notice published in July last year, Her Majesty's Customs and Revenue (HMRC) said the CDS is "a strategically important programme... driven by the principal need to first dual run with, then replace and decommission the Chief system."

Dating back to 1994, the Chief system is set to retire in 2023, according to the NAO. In 2020, Fujitsu was awarded a £168.8m deal to keep Chief running while CDS was in development.

CDS is a "key component" of the government's enactment of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the attempt to remain outside the single market and customs union while also keeping an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The competition notice said the winner would need to work on the full Java-based technology stack and the core middleware, including API integration platform WSO2 (which is being replaced), messaging middleware Apache Camel, orchestration software Rancher, load-balancer Nginx, and microservices platform Kong.

In a second contract worth up to £15m, Capgemini is also expected to work on Brexit-related technology. It was awarded the contract for "HMRC Enterprise Integration Service – Borders & Trade Release 2 Delivery" this week, a deal also set to end in January 2024.

The related tender notice from July last year said the winning supplier would be expected "to deliver the integration components such as APIs and File Transfers for projects... to enable secure border operations with which traders can comply and support the long-term vision."

The notice added: "The partnership will extend our technical resource capability and capacity to respond to user's integration needs identified across HMRC. The desired outcome is for the awarded supplier to bring industry best practices and high performing individuals to work alongside our delivery and live service teams."

Skills requested included REST, SOAP, XML, JSON, and Java 8+.

The notice said that in readiness for the end of the Brexit "transition period" on 31 December 2020, Release 1 of the system went live.

An HMRC report from June 2021 said the Borders & Trade system related to a network of Inland Border Facilities (IBF), designed to help maintain the flow of goods from the EU as the UK left the customs union and single market.

"The Inland Border Facilities are also of a temporary nature, as the longer-term expectation is that most CTC demand will be met by the commercial sector over time. HMRC will monitor usage of the IBFs to support decisions on the continued need for each site," the report said.

Whether that impacts the timeframe of the Capgemini deal remains to be seen.

The projects are among a group of technology procurements at the UK tax collector. Consultancy group Equal Experts has been awarded a £19.3m contract set to last until January 2024 and designed to address risk in data discovery.

The company has won similar deals worth up to £9.6m for data platform services and £8.3m for advanced analytics. Cognizant has won a £14.3m deal for data preparation and IBM has been awarded a £4.7m deal for zCloud, a cloud model for Big Blue's mainframes. ®

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