Cabinet Office was forced to paper over cracks in its procurement strategy by extending an infrastructure kit framework for two-thirds of a year as replacements remained way off completion, a spokesman admitted.
The Commodity IT Hardware & Software (CITHS) agreement had been set to go cold at the start of March having run for the full 48-month term, just as public sector buyers gear up for the busiest period of the year.
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To head off potential chaos, Crown Commercial Services (CCS), a professional procurement body acting on behalf of the Treasury, applied for and was granted extraordinary extension of eight months, as we revealed last week.
The Cabinet Office has finally broken its silence on the matter and responded to some questions we sent six days ago.
"Our primary aim is to support the operational business needs of our public sector customers. That is why we have extended the CITHS framework for a maximum period of eight months to 31 October."
The spokesman added this was to "ensure customers have a continued route to market for their common IT needs while the new procurements are being developed".
The Cabinet Office didn't say why the framework roadmap slipped, or answer our questions about why suppliers have been asked to cut margins as part of the extended CITHS, or why orders over £250k have to be re-routed to CCS for special management.
IT Products, Associated Software and Services is set to replace CITHS this year but remains at the early stages of the contract award process, with tendering documents expected to reach suppliers in April.
Sprint ii, another major framework relating to low value, high volume tech, is due to expire 15 March and the Cabinet Office said the extended CITHS procurement rig will be offered to buyers as an alternative.
The Transactional IT Product Solution is the natural successor to Sprint ii, for which a Prior Information Notice was sent to suppliers in December. There are no guarantees this will reach the tender stage. ®