E-gov plans hit by talks collapse

The goal of the multimillion pound project is to link back-office IT systems across government departments. The first transactional services enabled by Gateway, including online VAT returns, were due to be rolled out in 2001.

A consortium led by Compaq, with assistance from KPMG, Microsoft and Cable & Wireless, was expected to be given the job of implementing the Gateway project.

But the Cabinet Office said last week it had pulled out of talks when it failed to agree a ‘suitable’ contract with the consortium after changes to the original specification.

In a thinly veiled swipe at Compaq, it said: ‘It is only right that we don’t proceed with a contract in which we don’t have appropriate confidence. Consequently Compaq and the government will not now be signing a contract to partner in the delivery of the Government Gateway solution.’ Compaq refused to comment.

Earlier this year the Business & Accounting Software Developers Association warned that the Gateway plan was a risky option.

The Cabinet Office wanted Gateway ready to take registrations by January, and to go live for VAT in March. It says this timetable will be unaffected, but BASDA chief executive Dennis Keeling said: ‘I can’t see how they can possibly achieve it.’

‘Compaq has been working on this for four months, and it is obvious that the project has been getting more and more complex. The project has some significant problems – it could be a hacker target and that could bring down the entire infrastructure. It’s technically possible but has a lot of problems,’ he added.

The government is now believed to be in talks to revive the Gateway project with IT consultants EDS.

First published in Computing magazine.

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