Latest Public Sector News

19.09.16

Public Atos contracts found to be ‘within normal parameters’, despite criticism

Atos has been commended for its performance in major government contracts in a Cabinet Office review.

The Cabinet Office agreed to carry out the review following recommendations by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after a report on the struggling General Practice Extraction Service (GPES), for which Atos was a key supplier.

The company has also faced sharp criticism over its approach to carrying out assessments of disability benefits claimants, causing it to leave its contract a year early in 2014.

However, in a letter to Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC, Gareth Rhys Williams, the government chief commercial officer, said that a Cabinet Office review had found all Atos contracts “were performing within the normal operational parameters of large technology contracts”.

The Cabinet Office reviewed 12 contracts, which are collectively worth over £500m and make up more than 80% of Atos’ government work.

These contracts include providing IT support for the DWP’s personal independence payments (PIP) and health assessments of disability benefits claimants.

In addition, Atos provides IT services for the Treasury, Home Office, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice, Department of Health, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.

The review found that 10 of the 12 contracts met over 90% of their key performance indicators (KPI) June 2015 to May 2016.

The benefits assessment contract had fallen below performance standards but has now reached over 90% KPI after a “detailed improvement programme”.

A recent PAC report found “serious failings” by the companies contracted to provide benefits assessments, including Atos, although it noted that the DWP had taken steps to ensure assessments are processed faster.

The Cabinet Office review also said that Atos was not making excessive profits on its contracts. On the contrary, it commended the company for times when it had worked “at risk and beyond [its] contractual obligations to act in the client's interests”.

It also found that appropriate penalties were imposed when Atos did not meet its monthly performance targets.

Furthermore, the review said Atos was now working to address the PAC’s concerns, for instance by introducing a new corporate programme to promote a client-focused culture.

The Cabinet Office also said that it is responding to the PAC’s concerns by developing a Supplier Code of Conduct and beginning a programme of annual reviews of strategic suppliers, which is expected to be in place by June 2017.

An Atos spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the Cabinet Office has concluded that we deliver the appropriate level of professional support to our government clients.”

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