Professional buying group Government Procurement Services is in a race to roll out a bunch of tenders for multi-billion pound hardware and software frameworks before public sector year-end.
According to sources familiar with the matter, GPS will issue a replacement to the pan-public sector Commodity IT Hardware & Software (CITHS) agreement that ends 28 February and the Sprint ii framework, which expires on 15 March.
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The successor for the pair is codenamed IT Products, Associated Services & Solutions (IT PASS), say several sources, and it includes the same lots as CITHS - PCs, infrastructure and software - and one specifically for kit sales to the MoD.
The invitation to tender for the £1.2bn framework is expected to be issued to prospective suppliers next month. It is unclear at this stage how long it will run for, but CITHS ran from 2010.
As with CITHS, there will be e-auctions running between suppliers that are successful. Sprint ii included just one supplier SCC, which beat off rivals in the bidding stage, but caused controversy when police forces in England and Wales were mandated to use it solely.
The Home Office told us in 2011 it was going to review the use of Sprint ii but clearly Minister William Hague has had other stuff on his plate.
GPS will also issue a framework for hardware, believed to be worth between £500m to £1bn, to replace the little-used IT Hardware and Service framework that runs out in July and will not be renewed.
The headline worth of ITH&S was £4bn when it launched in summer 2012 but a limited set of SKUs and a cumbersome buying process deterred buyers and frustrated suppliers.
The replacement will suit suppliers that hold vast inventories of kit and can provide EDI links. There will be between 20 to 30 suppliers sought for this and each will be able to see the others' pricing.
And the final framework, a relative minor one at £200m, will seek out specialist software suppliers, "not commercial off-the-shelf" type of wares enveloped by Microsoft, Oracle et al.
A spokeswoman at GPS told us it has been "engaging with customers regarding future plans for CITHS" and is "finalising our proposed approach".
We asked about the various changes but GPS refused to comment further.
Suppliers tell us GPS wants to have the new agreements ready for March but if can take anything from six to 12 months depending on the size for a framework to reach deployment stage. GPS has form over deadline slips.
One told us, "Customers are now as nervous as we are, there are three working months to go [to get new frameworks in place]." ®