Accenture bags IT services contract for UK tax collector

Award timing reveals further slippage in HMRC's mega procurement plan

Updated The UK's tax collection agency is handing a £29.6 million ($35 million) contract to Accenture, providing further evidence that timelines to replace IT suppliers under a £7.1 billion ($8.4 billion) project are slipping.

Her Majesty's Revenues and Customs (HMRC) confirmed the award of the contract for the Auxiliary Transition Resource (ATR), a program to provide IT services to "support IT delivery, specifically in business analysis and delivery management."

The contract award is for two years with the option to extend for one further twelve months.

"ATR project is seeking to procure a replacement contract for services in IT Project Management, IT Business Analysis and related IT delivery services currently provided by prime contracts that expires [sic] in June 2022 and for which there is no option to extend," it said.

The project is part of a much wider technology procurement program for the department responsible for collecting £718.2 billion ($855 billion) in tax in 2021/2022.

The Technology Sourcing Programme kicked off in September 2020 in the hope of "breaking down and addressing" HMRC spending to "deliver a step change in how HMRC delivers IT, works with IT suppliers to procure and utilise technology and how we work more broadly as an organisation," according to the supplier engagement notice.

The latest procurement documents make it clear that ATR is part of the Technology Sourcing Programme and that "by the end of June 2022 Chief Digital and Information Officer must transform and procure new contracts and implement critical capabilities, processes, standards and tools needed to run and change live services."

Beginning on July 4, Accenture's ATR contract has only missed by a few days, although that might be of little comfort to seasoned IT professionals expecting a reasonable handover period.

In fact, the government's own projects watchdog, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), gave the program an amber warning. It said in a spreadsheet dated March 2021: "It is expected that all remaining procurements pertaining to the June 2022 deadline will be launched during the next six months."

However, the ATR procurement did not begin until April 2022, when a contract notice was published, more than six months after the IPA deadline.

The Register reported on early signs of slippage in the program late last year. At the time HMRC told The Reg all the "cliff-edge" tenders were issued before the end of September except for two. Data and Analytics 2 was issued on November 5 and is part of the £2 billion government-wide procurement for "Big Data & Analytics," which kicked of an early market engagement in September. HMRC is named as a "key stakeholder" in the framework.

The procurement for Crown Run Hosting was issued on October 19, also beyond the IPA deadline.

HMRC insisted that despite the delay to both procurements, the transition to the new contract was on track to be completed before the end of June 2022. "We remain very focused on meeting the June 2022 deadline," a spokesperson said in December last year.

The Register has asked HMRC to comment. ®

Updated at 12.05 UTC on 18 July 2022 to add:

An HMRC spokesperson told The Register: "On 1 July 2022, HMRC's 5 largest IT contracts ended and, through the Technology Sourcing Programme, we successfully moved to 29 new, smaller, more flexible contracts while protecting live services.

"The published Auxiliary Transition Resource (ATR) is not replacing any previous contracts that ended on 30 June 2022. Alongside our work to break up larger contracts, this contract is part of our ongoing activity to ensure we have access to the right skills and capabilities to be able to continue to improve the services our customers rely on."

"The ATR contract is a zero-commitment contract, giving HMRC the flexibility to bring in specialist capability and to provide additional capacity alongside our growing in-house team when it's needed. The contract was awarded under fair and open competition and we followed government procurement processes."

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