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BT wins £26m extension on NI Oracle finance system project

UK IT service provider sees contract value more than double 20 years after first work on system

Updated The IT services arm of UK comms giant BT has won a contract extension worth up to £26 million ($32 million) for up to five years – without competition – to support Northern Ireland's government accounting system.

It first worked on the system nearly 20 years ago.

Planned since 2002, the procurement and implementation of a centralized accounting system began in 2006. BT was initially contracted to build the Oracle E-Business Suite-based system for £52 million ($64 million).

The total value of the deal is now set to reach £129 million ($160 million) having been extended three times over the years without outside competition.

A tender document released this week said the contract extension was needed "to ensure continuity of services whilst this complex, transformational project is competitively tendered."

"The Accounting Services Programme (ASP) migrated all of the Northern Ireland Government Departments, the Northern Ireland Office, the Public Prosecution Service and a number of their Agencies and other bodies to the common accounting system," the notice said.

"The contract covers… the supply of a broad range of computer and related services, information technology consultancy services and the supply of computer hardware, software and associated products."

The current plan is to extend the contract by three years, until 2025, with another two-year extension possible, by which time the system would have been running for more than 20 years.

The contract has been subject to two previous modifications to add in extension periods March 2018 to March 2020 and March 2020 to March 2023.

In 2016, £5.5 million ($6.8 million) was added to the contract value, according to a procurement notice that put the original contract at £52 million ($64 million).

The contract was again extended in June 2019.

The original implementation did not go entirely smoothly. "During 2007, Account NI (the system resulting from the ASP) experienced a six-month delay in the Programme as the design was not sufficiently advanced to demonstrate a fit for purpose solution," the Northern Ireland Assembly Public Accounts Committee found [PDF].

The centralized accounting system is not the only project under which BT has been able to extract additional contract value from the Northern Ireland Department of Finance.

In January last year, BT was awarded a £20 million ($24 million) contract extension, without competition, for providing the Northern Ireland Land and Property Services' infrastructure. It has been working on the system since 1999, when the contract value was £46m ($57 million). By July 2021, total payments were set to reach £106.89 million ($132 million). Under the £20m ($24 million) extension, BT will run the service until 2026. ®

Updated to add on May 6:

The Department of Finance got in touch to say:

"The Department has commenced a Programme of work (Integr8) to commence the process of preparing for procurement of new Finance and HR technology solutions for Central Government.

"There is a range of service improvement and technology initiatives which will be undertaken prior to the implementation of a modern Cloud based technology solution for Finance and HR."

Responding to a question on when it planned to replace the system, it said work was underway to launch the procurement for a new technology solution by the end of this calendar year. "Once completed, there will be a design and implementation phase to replace the current system."

The accounting system runs on Oracle E-business suite. The department told us it was "currently migrating from R 12.1.3 to R 12.2.7, which has premier support until at least December 2032."

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