Exclusive! Six-month delay to Tata and Disclosure and Barring Service contract

Capita is a fascinating firm. As we said recently, they haven’t been implicated in recent scandals in the way Serco, G4S and A4E have been, although the reports into the Ministry of Justice translation contract weren't too positive about certain aspects of their role.

Their huge success in the public sector might make those outside suspect that everyone in the public sector loves them – but that’s not true. Many don’t like them at all. But there are a number of examples where efforts to take business away from them have rebounded on the buyers - a classic being the Sats tests back fiasco back in 2008 where Capita lost the contract to a relatively unproven supplier (ETS Europe) who then messed up in a major way.

And there is a recent case of Capita losing a contract where they were the incumbent. There was some surprise a year ago when in October 2012 Capita lost the competition for the £20M a year (approx) IT outsourcing contract for the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS), an agency of the Home Office. DBS has taken over the functions of the old Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

The contract was awarded instead to Tata Consulting Services, the Indian owned BPO provider. The original plan we believe was that Tata would take over when the contract with Capita ended in March 2013, but quickly the DBS got a bit less definite about this and intimated that transition wouldn’t happen until September / October 2013. Their annual report said:

“Alongside this, we will be developing new services and changing business process partner to TCS later in 2013”.

So we heard recently through our unparalled (?) network that things weren’t going well, and we put in a Freedom of Information request. After a false start – we submitted it to the Home Office, who waited three weeks then told us “not us, guv, contact the DBS” – we got an answer last week. Here are our questions and the answers.

1. Is it still the intention for Tata to take over these services, and if so, what is the expected timing for full transition and “go live”? Is it still October2013?

The intention is still for Tata to take over the services. The service commencement date is 12 March 2014.

2. Is there a fall back or “drop dead” date that, if Tata cannot show they are ready, you will then terminate the agreement with them and follow an alternative route?

The DBS is confident that TCS will take over the service on 12 March 2014 and is monitoring progress closely against an agreed plan and contractual milestones.

3. Will there be another open competition if Tata fail to take over the contract?

In the unlikely event that TCS fail to take over the contract, DBS would consider all its options.

4. Work with Capita has continued beyond the original contract termination date of March 31st. What commercial basis are they operating under? If you cannot provide full information, can you confirm whether the cost of the “transition period” work with Capita is greater or less than the cost was previously under the contract, and by how much?

The contract with Capita has a revised expiry date of 31 March 2014. The cost of the transition work with Capita is as per existing contract terms.

So, now we know. We’re looking at six-month delay in the new contract being implemented - that fact hadn’t been made public until now. And what are the odds do you think on this actually happening, successfully, in March 2014?

Meanwhile, let’s give Capita some credit for continuing to act as the supplier. I might have been a little tempted to tell the DBS to get lost by now. I suppose it’s good revenue, and Capita must be thinking that, as in the case of the Sats contract, this might come back to them in time anyway!

Another government procurement failure? Or a supplier problem that couldn’t have been foreseen? Or just one of those things? (Anyone who wants to tell me more, delighted to buy you a discreet pint / lunch somewhere...)

Voices (5)

  1. M. Baker:

    In trying to understand the transition delays you should consider two points. First that the DBS Update service was introduced just before TCS was due to take over. The nature of the Update service will have made the transition task more complex. Second, the DBS process was on the Cabinet Office GDS exemplar list until late 2013. It was dropped as an exemplar at that point. Trying to alter the approach to conform to the emerging GDS standards will not have been simple.

  2. Callmecynical:

    Meanwhile, back in the real world, it is highly likely that Capita are doing everything they possibly can to frustrate the service transition to prevent the fairly new TCS entrant from gaining a firmer foothold onto the Government carousel of contracts and DBS are thus held to ransom…

    Yes, Capita are such a great company and their reputation goes before them.

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Matthew:

    “it’s good revenue” – too right it is!

    According to the spending transparency data on GOV.UK they’ve been paid £17.5m in the period April 2013 – June 2013.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/transparency-spend-over-25-000

  4. Matthew:

    Capita don’t take well to losing contracts, as soon as they knew TCS had won they suddenly become very generous to their employees and it wasn’t even Christmas:

    http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/commercial_sector/employer-groups/Capita/news/capita-crb-members-vote-to-accept-improved-pay-offer.cfm

    A case of scorched earth?

  5. Ali:

    Is there any connection between this delay and the fact that this procurement was one of the LEAN procurement pilots?

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