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UK Office of Fair Trading Probes Supply of ICT Services to the Public Sector

Thursday, July 4th, 2013 (9:27 am) - Score 718

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which is the United Kingdom’s consumer and competition authority, has started a new probe into the supply of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) goods and services to the public sector. The move is likely to include some aspects of the government’s national broadband scheme(s).

The OFT, which wants to ensure that the sector works well, noted that there have been “many reviews” of such procurement but only a few have actually examined whether aspects of the supply side of the market “inhibit competition“. It added that a lack of competition can “hinder productivity [and] economic growth“.

Clive Maxwell, OFT Chief Executive, said:

This work demonstrates a continued focus by the OFT on markets related to public services. Information and communication technology is a crucial part of any modern economy and is key to improving productivity in public services as well as businesses.

Given the vital role that this technology plays in the delivery of public services and the cost to the taxpayer, the OFT believes it is important to explore whether there are any restrictions on competition.

We want to hear both from industry suppliers and public sector users about how competition in this market works, any problems that they have experienced, and how it could be made to work better.”

ICT is somewhat of a de facto term for the government that includes pretty much everything related to IT and telecom services, including its various Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and related schemes. Sadly the OFT doesn’t mention any specific sectors in its related Call for Information (PDF) document but broadband will almost certainly be covered.

The news comes just ahead of a vital report from the National Audit Office (NAO), which is widely expected to criticise the value for money aspects of the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project. One of the biggest bones of contention, for some, is often the way in which BT are left as the only viable bidder for related contracts.

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