The UK Government will announce the successful tender for the contract to supply and manage its massive private data network, which will link HM Custom and Excise, the Department of Health & Social Security – soon to be split into separate ministries, the Home Office, the Inland Revenue and HM Treasury, at the beginning of April. The pilot for the service, the Valid VAT Access and Local Input of Data project in HM Customs & Excise, will come on stream towards the end of the year and the remainder in 1989. The Central Computer & Telecommunications Agency gives the fact that the project was complex, difficult and time-consuming to negotiate as a reason for going back on its October 1987 deadline. The three consortia bidding for the contract, said to be worth in excess of UKP100m, are Computer Sciences Corp with British Telecom, Cable & Wireless Plc with ICL, and the Racal Scicon Ltd joint venture company. Scicon, currently owned by BP Plc, is in porcess of being acquired by Systems Designers Plc, which it dwarfs. Memoranda of Agreement were finalised last month and signed by the Government departments and suppliers involved, and defined the minimum technical specifications. The suppliers now have to compete on price and service levels, security, in particular, and ensure that they are cheaper than comparable public services would be. The service also has to be a practical example of the Government’s continued support of Open Systems Interconnection and, because of its size and geographical spread, could be come the core of a much broader Government data communications service. Although the Computer & Telecomms Agency manages the Government’s telecommunications network, the private data network will be handed over to the successful contractor under a commercial Facilities Management contract. The supplier will be responsible for designing, procuring, implementing and running the service, watched over by the Agency, with the proviso that the Government can take it over if necessary.