A surprising investigation has recently been launched by the Office of Fair Trading to look into the supply of IT services and products to the public sector. As part of the investigation, the OFT is calling for purchasers and suppliers to share their experiences.
The OFT is keen on establishing whether or not competition works well in the public sector, and it is particularly focusing on any potential barriers of entry experienced by smaller businesses, barriers faced by public sector users when switching suppliers, and whether IT suppliers limit the interoperability of their products and services with competitor’s systems.
According to Clive Maxwell, OFT Chief Executive, given the cost of this technology to taxpayers and the important role it plays in the distribution of public services, the OFT feels it is important to investigate whether there are any IT supply restrictions on competition.
“We want to hear both from industry suppliers and public sector users about how competition in this market works, any problems that they have experienced, and how it could be made to work better,” says Maxwell.
Ever since the inception of the coalition government, the central government has placed a strong focus on dismantling the IT supply ‘oligopoly’ that dominates the public sector, with a particular emphasis on making it easier for small businesses to procure public sector contracts and drive down IT costs.
Liam Maxwell, government CTO, spoke last week at a CIO conference for The Economist, explaining the reasons for the government’s need to amend its approach to outsourcing. At the forum, Maxwell stated that the government has been spending approximately one per cent of the UK’s GDP on an outsourcing oligopoly for 15 years.
According to Maxwell, most of the IT performed by the government, the ownership of the government’s IT systems, and the ownership of the information rests with outsiders rather than the government. The UK government has no access to it, creating a massive fundamental problem for the government.
“Part of the reforms we are bringing into technology in government is to move the ability to access information and the ability to work with the technology back into government,” Maxwell stated.
The majority of IT contracts that the UK government is currently locked into end in 2018 and 2017, so there is a huge emphasis on how the government can make changes and do things differently.