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Technology / Cloud

EXCLUSIVE: Atos Clinches £135M Defra IT Contract

French IT services multinational Atos has won a £135 million contract to overhaul and operate the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) IT infrastructure.

Atos beat six rivals to win the five-year contract. It will provide data centre services and support 250 unique applications for 21,000 staff across Defra’s sprawling IT estate.

These will be operated from 150 distributed server rooms and five data centres.

The contract’s focus is on hosting and application support for the Environment Agency, Natural England, Animal and Plant Health Agency, Marine Management Organisation and Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

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The RPA in particular has faced persistent criticism from users, with 48 percent of users saying they are struggling to submit payment requests, while facing inaccurate mapping changes and delays in payment.

Atos wins major Defra contract

Atos has been contacted for comment on the contract win.

The procurement details, as published on a European tenders page, note that the applications “support a diverse range of existing business services and are of varying age and complexity.” The contract can be extended by one year.

Repeated calls to Defra by Computer Business Review went unanswered.

“Substantial Risks” from Brexit

Defra is responsible for the oversight of 33 discrete agencies, including those named.  The department is midway through a transformation programme called UniTY to exit longstanding contracts and upgrade legacy systems.

Last year Defra extended a £1.4 billion contract with IBM – initially signed in 2004 – by 17 months, citing Brexit complications.

Atos’ contract win comes eight weeks after a Parliamentary special committee warned that there are “substantial risks” of disruption to the agricultural, food and chemical industries if IT systems at cash-strapped Defra are not readied for Brexit.

In May this year Defra civil servants told the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) that in the event of a hard, or “no deal” Brexit, it would be forced tofind “clunky manual workarounds” to keep some services running.

As reported by Computer Business Review in May, permanent secretary to Defra, Clare Moriarty, admitted in oral evidence to PAC that the challenge “is huge and it keeps me awake at night”.

She told PAC in oral evidence that the department had six priority projects: “To replace the TRACES system of import control; the system for chemicals registration to replace the REACH system; the export health certificates system; the pesticides framework; catch certificates, which is a way of accounting for fish caught; and enforcement of control for fisheries”.

Multinational Atos is one of Defra’s incumbent IT providers. It has annual revenues of approximately £10 billion and over 100,000 employees in 73 countries.


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CBR Staff Writer

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