The Home Office will review the controversial Sprint ii procurement framework once the newly created police ICT company is up and running next spring, giving hope to many suppliers that blue light business will be back in their future.
The government mandated police purchasing heads in England and Wales to buy low-end IT kit via Sprint ii from March as opposed to Buying Solutions' Commodity IT Hardware and Software (CITHS) deal on advice from the National Policing Improvement Agency.
The bone of contention for CITHS suppliers – other than the fact a huge chunk of business was whipped from under their noses – was that Sprint ii included just one supplier, SCC, and they questioned how this could be more competitive.
However, the future of the sector was called back into question this week after Home Secretary Theresa May told the Association of Chief Police Officers that the current methods of buying ICT were "confused, fragmented and expensive".
She said the police spent £1.2bn each year on ICT, citing an example of one supplier that has over 1,500 contracts across all forces and revealing that 5,000 police staff are working on over 2,000 ICT systems, across 100 data centres.
"Clearly this is not sensible ... and the current approach of each force procuring their services individually pushes up costs for all," said May.
May's solution is to set up a police-led ICT company to "fix" the problems, pooling the purchasing power of the 43 forces in England and Wales to procure as one entity, housing IT professionals that have the skills to define the product and services needed police.
She said the skills inside the forces to "negotiate and manage large, complex ICT contracts are scarce" and that the expertise to maintain these deals was "scarcer still".
Gordon Wasserman, government advisor on policing and criminal justice will lead work on creating the police company, due spring 2012, chairing a shadow board on which Ailsa Beaton – CIO at the Met and ACPO lead on IT – will sit as senior IT professional.
A number of CITHS suppliers contacted by The Register expressed hope that the Sprint ii ruling would be overturned and an open bidding process would resume.
"Anything that re-introduces competition is a good thing," said one.
The Home Office spokesman told The Register: "The Sprint ii framework will continue as is for the time being. This will be reviewed once the company is up and running".
SCC was unavailable for comment. ®