The Cabinet Office is set to launch a second procurement process to find an IT partner to complete work on the late-running InSite database for government property after the £1.3m original deal was cancelled, MPs have been told.
A Public Accounts Committee session yesterday heard that the planned InSite database – for which contractor Landmark Solutions Ltd was given a March 2021 completion deadline – now might not be up and running until the end of next year.
A National Audit Office report in July said a lack of good real-time and in-depth data on the government property portfolio was a “major barrier” to effective decision making at the Office of Government Property, which sits within the Cabinet Office.
InSite is part of the remedy to that lack of data, and is expected to deal with more than 100,000 different property assets, up from the 5,000 currently handled by the 17-year-old ePIMS system that it was commissioned to replace.
Government property function head Janet Young told MPs that Landmark’s contract had been terminated in July after the project still failed to reach completion despite extensions to the timescale that ultimately gave it an extra year on top of the original deadline. Staff turnover and resourcing issues were blamed for the delays.
She said the government had paid out roughly £880,000 to Landmark for InSite, but that that around £300,000 had been repaid by the firm.
Young said work on the database was estimated to be around 60% finished and that the government would also benefit from software licences for the project that had already been purchased by Landmark as part of the settlement.
Young added that Landmark had also agreed to support the mobilisation of the new contractor.
“We expect to be out to tender for a new supplier in the next month or so. We expect to be able to appoint the new supplier in the new year,” she said.
“Our planning assumption is that will take about six months, but we want to see what the market comes back with.”
She said OGP did not want to be “too prescriptive” about how suppliers would use the work already put into the project by Landmark.
Committee member Mark Francois asked Young why an off-the-shelf property database had not been procured.
Young said none of the available options in 2020, when Landmark was appointed, had met OGP'’s requirements. But she said the situation may have changed in the intervening two years.
“We’re aware that the market’s moved on, and that’s why when we go back out to tender we’re hoping that there may be some new systems off the shelf that meet our requirements,” she said.
Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm told MPs that he and the OGP would be able to update the committee on timescales for InSite’s completion once the procurement process was complete. However, he said he expected the database would be live by the end of 2023.