The chairman of the Inland Revenue has hit back at critics of its £4bn IT outsourcing competition.
Sir Nick Montagu said that the Revenue will take further steps if necessary to make sure that the competition is fair.
"The competition is far from being open and shut," he explained. "Recent evidence of public sector IT procurements shows that incumbents are losing to non-incumbents rather than winning."
He maintained that the Revenue had undertaken a "market-making exercise" where it spoke to 10 potential bidders to explain what it was looking for in a technology partner.
"We listened and took steps to level the playing field," said Montagu. "We will keep listening to the shortlisted bidders and, where necessary, take further steps to ensure that bidders continue to have an equal chance to succeed in the competition."
The Revenue's contract for the running of its IT operations is due for renewal in July 2004. But the Revenue only received four bids - three of which were shortlisted - as other large outsourcers decided not to bid.
Critics have claimed that there is little chance of the other shortlisted bidders, BT and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, unseating the current incumbents, EDS and Accenture, which are bidding together.
"The effort made in ensuring that there is fair competition is unprecedented," said Craig Wilson, client executive at EDS.
Between now and the end of next month the bidders will be learning more about the Revenue's massive systems, and wading through a 55,000-page report detailing its operations.
And as planned, the Revenue and EDS have identified 85 key staff that it will need to retain to ensure that the transition is smooth.
Bidders must respond to the invitation to tender by January 2003, and the contract will be awarded in December 2003, to commence in July 2004.
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