The Home Office has extended its deadline for the completion of its delayed Emergency Services Network by a year to December 2024 and agreed to pay supplier Motorola an extra £82m to adopt an off-the-shelf "push-to-talk" product, it has emerged.
The Home Office's existing contract to introduce ESN had been due to expire in December 2023 at the latest. But in a contract award notice published this week, the department said a year’s extension would allow its full introduction to the emergency services and “avoid the risk of impacting on the benefits of the service to the users”.
The notice was published just weeks after officials admitted that a presumed deadline of December 2022 to introduce the ESN and shut down the system it was replacing, Airwave, was “actually a not before date” rather than a hard deadline.
The contract notice confirmed that December 2022 is "the soonest that a full rollout could reasonably be achieved", and that the Home Office's existing contract terms with Motorola would expire a year later.
"Through variation the Authority has extended the term of the contract to December 2024 in order to fully rollout the solution to the users and to avoid the risk of impacting on the benefits of the service to the users," it said.
It added: "The need for these changes has arisen because the ESN project is delayed and therefore changes are required to the delivery timetable."
The extension increases the cost of the contract from £319m to £401m. The Home Office said that the extra costs consisted of £44m for the one-year extension, £12m for use of Motorola’s push-to-talk Kodiak product and £26m for other capabilities to allow delivery including hardware for testing.
Justifying the extra spending, the department said moving to the already-working Kodiak product “de-risks delivery and enables the programme to move to a standardised solution faster”. It added: “The Home Office considers this variation represents the best option for securing delivery as early as possible.”
Motorola was awarded the contract to develop and introduce an app providing "push-to-talk" functionality and data services on emergency services employees’ mobile devices in 2015. The Home Office said that renegotiating this contract, rather than holding an open competition, represented the best option for a range of technical reasons, including the fact that the technical interface between Airwave and ESN is owned by Motorola.
“There is no reasonable alternative to procuring these services from Motorola: the Home Office’s assessment is that, were it to use a different provider for all of these services, full rollout would be delayed by approximately five years (including the time needed to procure a new provider),” it said, along with an extra cost of approximately £2.6bn.
Motorola acquired Kodiak Solutions, a specialist provider of push-to-talk mobile services, in August 2017.
Work began on the ESN project in 2011, with migration for police, fire, and ambulance services having been due to start in the summer of 2018 and completed by the end of this year. A National Audit Office report in September 2018 said that delays were costing the Home Office’s police budget £330m a year, due to the cost of maintaining the current Airwave system.