UK courts award CGI £60M deal to keep ancient tech alive

The UK courts have awarded CGI a contract worth up to £60 million ($74.2 million) to keep its "heritage application" up and running after the much-delayed implementation of a new case management system.

In a contract notice issued last week, HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) handed the Canadian multinational IT consulting and services company an application maintenance and support deal for around 35 "business-critical applications, the majority of which are used by HM Courts and Tribunal Service."

The procurement document said: "Most of the applications are classed as 'heritage applications' due to their age. Many are business critical case management or case progression systems used by the courts and are typically complex and bespoke."

The courts service, which sits under the Ministry of Justice, first hired CGI for its Application Management Services as part of its Future IT Sourcing agreement in 2014.

However, the extension to the deal was not advertised or tendered for competition.

"The opportunity was not advertised, because for example only one supplier is capable of delivering the requirement, or due to extreme urgency brought about by unforeseen events," the contract notice said.

Discussion of "unforeseen events" in the "critical case management or case progression systems" may raise alarm with some observers.

In February, the National Audit Office (NAO) said HMCTS had failed to see the benefits of a £1.3 billion ($1.6 billion) case management platform after a rethink led to a £22.5 million ($27.8 million) write-off.

The UK's public spending watchdog said [PDF]: "Of most concern is the case management system for criminal courts, common platform. HMCTS's design of the system was beset with problems and its implementation is having a detrimental impact on courts. While the system has undoubtedly improved since its initial rollout, remaining technical issues are creating inefficiencies and introducing risk to courts and the wider system."

Planning for the "common platform" - a digital case management system - began in 2016. The plan was to allow all involved parties secure access to case information in one place, including the Judiciary and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). In 2021, the project board approved a change to the system, rolling it out to HMCTS only and sharing information with CPS's existing system via interfaces.

As of November 2022, 76 percent of criminal courts were using common platform, the NAO said.

HMCTS intends to complete the program by December 2023 and was expected to finish the common platform rollout to courts in March 2023.

The Register has asked HMCTS why it needed to extend the CGI deal at short notice.

Earlier this year, HMCTS awarded CGI a separate deal for "common services" in its digital delivery unit in a contract set to be worth up to £29.9 million ($36.9 million) and last until February 2026. ®

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