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Almost £1bn Worth of Taxpayers’ Money Wasted on Failed Track & Trace Contracts

The Government's failure to prevent a second national lockdown will bill the taxpayer £982m of wasted costs.

11 November, 2020

Credits: Simon Dawson/ No 10 Downing Street.

In May 2020, Boris Johnson promised Britain a “world beating” track and trace operation.

In June, Lord Bethell – the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Innovation – declared the cost of track and trace technology to date as £11.8m.

Neither of these claims have been true.

As of 5 November, Britain has entered its second national lockdown in a clear testament to the failures of track and trace. The Government’s expenditure of taxpayers’ money has resulted in public calls for transparency and an inquiry into the details of the track and trace contracts.

At the time of writing, the Government has not yet published details of any contracts.

In response, New Politic has uncovered and collated £982m worth of taxpayers’ money spent on track and trace contracts. This figure excludes contracts related to testing, PPE and anything else unrelated to the development and operations of the NHS COVID-19 App. This figure is conservative, as it only reflects contracts found in the public domain. There are still hundreds — if not thousands — of contracts yet to be released.

In times of crises, outsourcing plays an important role to support the Government. However, our investigation reveals the process of procurement was riddled with cronyism, inadequate competition and incompetence.

Here are details of the companies who were contracted by the Government to develop track and trace:

Palantir Technologies UK Ltd

Contract 1:

Contract Value: £7,850,000 – with a possibility to increase to a total of £20,100,000 over the next three years if extended after 30 August 2021. The Government contracts finder reports the value of the contract as £0.

Category: Data Management Contracts

Contract DescriptionData security software package

Dates: 31 August 2020 – 30 August 2021

Further Details: Palantir Technologies UK Ltd is a British subsidiary of Palantir Technologies Inc, registered in the United States. It received substantial funding from the Central Intelligence Agency’s venture capital firm, In-Q-Tel, and has contracted with the American Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to assist with mass immigration raids. It has also contracted with the Pentagon to develop AI for military drones – a contract Google abandoned after its employees protested. Sir Daniel Bethlehem KCMG QC, a director of the UK subsidiary, was a principal legal adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 2006-11. Further, according to reports by The Times, the Chief of the UK subsidiary is the grandson of the British fascist Sir Oswald Mosley: Louis Mosley (note: details do not show up on Companies House). He was also a former Conservative party activist. The contract was procured as a call off from a Framework Agreement (a mini-competition or direct purchase from a pre-existing framework agreement).

Contract 2:

Contract Value: £1,000,000-1,500,000

Category: Data Management Contracts

Contract DescriptionData management platform

Dates: 12 June 2020 – 11 December 2020

Further Details: The contract was procured as a call off from a Framework Agreement (a mini-competition or direct purchase from a pre-existing framework agreement).

Total = £21,600,000

Faculty Science Ltd

Contract Value: £125,000

Category: Data Management Contracts

Contract DescriptionR&D / Building a database 

Dates: 23 March 2020 – 12 June 2020

Further Details: Faculty worked on the R&D for what became the NHS COVID-19 App. It was trialled on the Isle of Wight and attempted to deviate from the successful Apple and Google centralised models by relying on Bluetooth networking. Consequently, it failed to work on Apple iOS 11 or Android 8 systems. Contact-tracers also complained of being unable to log into the website – causing the app to be abandoned and putting further efforts to revive it in August and September to waste. Faculty also has close ties with Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s top aide. Cummings’s private consultancy firm, Dynamic Maps, offered Faculty a contract worth £250k to work on the Vote Leave campaign. After the Conservatives’ victory, Cummings hired Ben Warner, the brother of Faculty’s CEO, as an adviser to No.10 on data and tech. The Guardian further reports that the CEO, Marc Warner, has attended SAGE meetings on COVID along with his brother and Dominic Cummings.

Topham Guerin

Contract Value: £3,000,000

Category: Project Management/Consulting Contracts

Contract DescriptionCampaign coordination services

Dates: 17 March 2020  – 16 September 2020

Further Details: Topham Guerin was the political communications company behind the Conservatives’ digital election campaign strategy. According to Byline Times, they were responsible for renaming the verified Conservative party Twitter account to “factcheckUK during the leaders’ debate – a stunt that received widespread criticism for intending to mislead the public by purporting to be an impartial fact checker. They were also responsible for setting up a website emulating Labour’s manifesto. Topham’s Managing Director, Deborah Feldman, is also well known within the Conservative ranks. Her brother, Lord Andrew Feldman, is a close friend and ally to former Prime Minister David Cameron and has been described as his oldest political friend going back to their days at OxfordHe was appointed co-chairman of the Conservative party during Cameron’s time in office.

Serco

Contract 1:

Contract Value: £108,000,000, with the possibility to increase to £432,000,000 if renewed after the initial period of the contract. Contract tracers on social media have confirmed they have been told to expect further renewals beyond October. One tracer reported that “Serco are currently saying call handler contracts are expected to be renewed. The renewal will be last minute (again).” Another reported that a Serco subcontractor was advertising vacancies for contact tracers. A spokesman also confirmed to OpenDemocracy that the Serco contract would be extended beyond August.

Category: Call Centre Contracts

Contract DescriptionContract for a contact centre

Dates: 18 May 2020 – 23 August 2020, later extended beyond 23 August

Further Details: Serco’s involvement in the Test and Trace Program has raised controversy due to the company’s close links to the Conservative Party. Edward Agar, who is the Minister of State for the Department of Health and Social Care, previously was the head of public affairs at Serco. The Chief Executive of Serco is also Rupert Soames, the brother of former Conservative MP Nicholas Soames. Justin Madders MP later told the Guardian that “the email went out to contact tracers in early June and suggests Serco was cherry picked very early by the Government to get involved in the pandemic response. It looks like they had the inside track from the start. It begs the question, why was Serco asked as early as January to get involved in the Government’s response to the pandemic?” As a result of the Government’s large contract, Serco last week reported a 53% rise in half year profits, to a total of £77.8 million. The company’s revenue also grew by 24% to £1.8bn in the same period. Serco’s operations in the Test and Trace Program have been criticised for being ineffective. Its 10,5000 tracers were supposed to get in touch with people who had been in close contact with COVID-19 carriers. However, figures from the BBC show that just 52.4 of people from the same household have been reached.

Contract 2:

Contract Value: £45,750,000 – with the possibility to increase to £90,000,000 if extended after the initial period of the contract

Category: Call Centre Contracts

Contract DescriptionEmergency contact centre services for outbound calls to support vulnerable customers self-isolating

Dates: 20 March 2020 – 19 September 2020

Further Details: Layla Moran MP, a Liberal Democrat leadership candidate, said: “It is concerning that any firm with previous serious reputational issues would be tasked with supporting vulnerable people at this time. This raises questions about how and why Serco was awarded this contract.” The contract was procured as a call off from a Framework Agreement (a mini-competition or direct purchase from a pre-existing framework agreement).

Contract (3)

Contract Value: £1,033,000

Category: Call Centre Contracts

Contract DescriptionSurge capacity contract centre services for the Business Support Helpline

Dates: 20 March 2020 – 01 May 2020

Further Details: The contract was procured as a Direct Award due to reasons of “extreme urgency brought about by events unforeseen by the contracting authority.”

Total = £523,033,000

Sitel

Contract Value: £84,228,011, with a possibility to increase to £310,000,000 if extended beyond August 2020. It was revealed in mid-August that Sitel had told its staff that its contract for test and trace had been extended for an “additional eight weeks” beyond the initial contract period.

Category: Call Centre Contract

Contract Description: Call centre for contact tracing

Dates: 18 May 2020 – 23 August 2020, extended for another eight weeks into mid-October

Further Details: Sitel is a privately owned contact centre company that provides customer support for other businesses, public bodies and Governments. Sitel (along with Serco) provide the call handlers who ring the contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Sitel has already been involved in numerous controversies since the beginning of the pandemic. Staff hired as contact tracers by Sitel complained they were left ‘completely and utterly’ confused about their role after attending ‘chaotic’ remote training sessions. The new recruits reported spending hours to log onto online systems, having no work to do and experiencing technical and quality issues with the training they received. Sitel has also been accused of misinforming its potential employees. One man said he logged into a Sitel run training session to find that the customer services role he had applied for was actually a training contact tracer position. He stated several people left the call when this was discovered. The contracts with Sitel (and Serco) do not contain any penalty clauses for underperformance. This was discovered by Conservative MP David Davis after raising questions to the Department of Health. The veteran MP claimed that ‘[Whitehall] do this too often…big comfortable contracts with big comfortable companies not doing their job properly…we are seeing it here.” Earlier this year, Sitel also made the headlines when it had its own outbreak of COVID-19 at its site in Motherwell. Allegations ensued that the call centre was not cleaned properly as staff ‘didn’t have time’, leaving its employees in fear to go to work for fear of contracting the virus. Sitel has additionally been no stranger to Government work. The company previously worked with the Home Office to charge non-UK citizens £5.48 to email the department from abroad, while also charging £1.37 for international phone calls. British citizens contacting the Home Office from abroad were also reportedly charged in the process. The Home Office failed to keep records of how often this happened.

Capita

Contract 1:

Contract Value: £120,250

Category: Project Management / Consultancy Contract

Contract Description: Consultancy services for the test and trace team

Dates: 1 June 2020 – 31 August 2020

Further Details: In 2017, Capita had been listed as a supporting/donating organisation in 2017 of the Industry and Parliamentary Trust (IPT), a body designed to increase relations between the business world and parliament. How much money Capita has donated is still unclear.

Contract 2:

Contract Value: £120,250

Category: Project Management/Consulting Contract

Contract Description: Supply of professional services 

Dates: 01 June 2020 – 31 August 2020

Further Details: N/A

Total = £240,500

Kainos Software Limited

Contract 1:

Contract Value: £6,725,228

Category: Software & App Development

Contract Description: Assist Public Health England with the contact tracing solution, which is part of the NHS Test and Trace Programme

Dates: 25 May 2020 – 24 May 2022

Further Details: Kainos Software Limited has experience providing software for the medical sector. In the UK and Ireland, the company already provides an electronic medical record product – named Evolve – for the digitisation of patient notes in the NHS. In 2017, Kainos’s CEO, Brendan Mooney, appeared on the Times Rich List in 2017 with a reported net worth of £35m. The report also notes he was selected to join UK Prime Minister Theresa May on a trade mission to India in 2016.

Contract 2:

Contract Value: £7,000,000

Category: Software & App Development

Contract DescriptionContract award for the COVID-19 testing service, development, delivery and run

Dates: 24 August 2020 – 31 August 2020

Further Details: N/A

Total = £13,725,228

Eggplant Software

Contract Value: £213,600

Category: Software & App Development Contracts

Contract Description: Software to test the COVID App

Dates: 16 May 2020 – 31st July 2020

Further Details: Eggplant Software provided a managed service to test the COVID contact app. Prior to the contract’s completion, Companies House filings show it applied for voluntary strike off the register on the 27th July. It is now a dissolved company. According to Companies House, it filed accounts in October 2019 as a dormant company with reported net assets of £2. Its sister company, De Facto 2244 Limited (formerly Eggplant Software Development Limited), has also applied for voluntary strike off. Records also show accounts filed as a dormant company.

Go Pivotal (UK) Ltd

Contract 1:

Contract Value: £500,243

Category: Software & App Development Contracts

Contract DescriptionProximity (Contact Tracing) App Development and Support 

Dates: 23 March 2020 – 4 September 2020

Further Details: Go Pivotal is a subsidiary of VMware and falls under the U.S. giant Dell Technologies group. It contracted with the Department of Health and Social Care to provide a COVID-19 iOS application for the iTunes store and a COVID-19 Android application for the Google Play store, as well as mobile development tooling among other services. As reported by The Canary, the app had flaws in the design from early stages and was eventually abandoned by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on 18 June.

Contract 2:

Contract Value: £1,321,967

Category: Software & App Development Contracts

Contract DescriptionProximity (Contract Tracing) App Development and Support 

Dates: 23 March 2020 – 30 April 2020

Further Details: N/A

Total = £1,822,210

VMware UK Ltd

Contract Value: £3,025,739

Category: Software & App Development Contracts

Contract DescriptionNHS COVID-19 App Development

Dates: 01 May 2020 – 31 July 2020

Further Details: VMware received a separate contract to its subsidiary, Go Pivotal Ltd. It was procured as a call off from a Framework Agreement (a mini-competition or direct purchase from a pre-established framework agreement). 

Zuhlke Engineering Ltd

Contract 1:

Contract Value: £1,074,240

Category: Software & App Development Contracts

Contract Description: Proximity (contact tracing) app: mobile development 

Dates: 23 March 2020 – 16 September 2020

Further Details: The deliverables included a COVID-19 iOS application published to the iTunes store, a COVID-19 Android application published to the Play store, as well as a mobile development tooling to automate the development process where possible.

Contract 2:

Contract Value: £4,725,600

Category: Software & App Development Contracts

Contract DescriptionNHSX COVID-19 mobile app development and support during the live phase

Dates: 6 May 2020 – 10 November 2020

Further Details: N/A

Contract 3:

Contract Value: £974,592

Category: Software & App Development Contracts

Contract DescriptionBuild assurance and system integrations services

Dates: 16 March 2020 – 16 September 2020

Further Details: Deliverables included the creation and maintenance of a directory that enumerates the project staff, their roles, current activities, skills and contact data, the publication of a project plan capturing milestones and activities, the ownership of overall project reporting, and the agreement of a working relationship, agreed between the teams that captures how they will work and collaborate. The company’s parent company is Zuhlke Technology Group AG, based in Switzerland. It has over 10,000 projects and employees well over 1,0000 people in eight countries. Since the parent company has engineers in the Far East and central Europe, there have been concerns such countries could have access to patient details from the NHS Track and Trace App.

Total = £6,774,432

Boston Consulting Group

Contract 1:

Contract Value: £10,000,000

Category: Project Management and Consulting Contracts

Contract Description: Consulting services for the Test and Trace Program

Dates: Between the end of April and late August, lasting over a period of four months

Further Details: Documents outlining the arrangement revealed that Boston Consulting Group (BCG) agreed to provide 40 consultants to work on the project. Consultants at BCG were reported to have earned up to £2,400 a day, with the most senior consultants earning up to £7,360 a day – equivalent to a salary of around £1.5m. The firm offered discounts between 10-15% for different parts of the project, in recognition of the fact that the bill was being paid for from taxpayer’s money. Alistair Flanagan at BCG reportedly worked as a senior consultant on the project. The consulting expert previously worked for the Government in 2017. His role on the £10m project was said to have lasted only a few days.

Contract 2:

Contract Value: £4,992,059

Category: Project Management / Consultancy Contracts

Contract DescriptionStrategic support 

Dates: 27 April 2020 – 17 July 2020

Further Details: The contract was procured as a call off from a Framework Agreement (a mini-competition or direct purchase from a pre-existing framework agreement).

Contract 3:

Contract Value: £4,996,056

Category: Software & App Development Contracts

Contract DescriptionDigital Support

Dates: 27 April 2020 – 17 July 2020

Further Details: N/A

Contract 4:

Contract Value: £4,500,000 with the possibility to increase to a ceiling value of £7,500,000 subject to certain factors such as the economic environment and DFiD approval

Category: Project Management/Consultancy Contracts

Contract DescriptionAccelerated COVID-19 economic support

Dates: 10 June 2020 – 9 June 2021, with the possibility to be extended for another 2 years

Further Details: N/A

Contract 5:

Contract Value: £1,600,000

Category: Project Management / Consultancy Contracts

Contract DescriptionCOVID-19 consultancy task force

Dates: 10 August 2020 – 31 March 2021

Further Details: According to Section 8.2 of the contract, four consultants are expected to work on it.

Total = £29,088,115

McKinsey & Co

Contract Value: £563,400

Category: Project Management/Consultancy Contracts

Contract DescriptionAdvise on the vision, purpose and narrative of England’s testing programme and provide design principles and high-level key performance indicators

Dates: Six week contract, entered into May 2020

Further Details: The contract was published a week before the appointment of Dido Harding — a former McKinsey consultant — as the head of the new National Institute for Health Protection. According to the contract, McKinsey will not charge per hour or day of its time in accordance with its approach “to ensure value for money for its clients”. Instead, it will charge clients based on its completion of a project by a specified date. “This fee includes all time, expenses, overtime, weekend work and use of dedicated resources and consultation with other (McKinsey) experts who are not part of the full-time team.”

Ernst & Young LLP

Contract 1:

Contract Value: £360,000

Category: Project Management / Consultancy Contracts

Contract DescriptionProvision of communications support for the COVID-19 Test, Track and Trace programme

Dates: 19 May 2020 – 18 August 2020

Further Details: N/A

Contract 2:

Contract Value: £400,000

Category: Project Management / Consultancy Contracts

Contract Description: Provision of communications support for the COVID-19 Test, Track and Trace programme

Dates: 19 May 2020 – 18 August 2020

Further Details: N/A

Contract 3:

Contract Value: £996,340

Category: Project Management / Consultancy Contracts

Contract DescriptionProvision of communications support for the COVID-19 Test, Track and Trace programme

Dates: Unknown start – September 2020

Further Details: N/A

Total = £1,756,340

Baringa Partners LLP

Contract Value: £867,000

Category: Project Management / Consultancy Contracts

Contract DescriptionCommercial support for test and trace

Dates: 26 June 2020 – 30 November 2020

Further Details: The contract was procured as a call off from a Framework Agreement (a mini-competition or direct purchase from a pre-existing framework agreement).

Stone Computers Ltd

Contract 1:

Contract Value: £446,500

Category: Hardware Contracts

Contract DescriptionPurchase of an additional 500 laptops for test and trace teams 

Dates: 28 May 2020 – 27 August 2020

Further Details: The contract was procured as a call off from a Framework Agreement (a mini-competition or direct purchase from a pre-existing framework agreement).

Contract 2:

Contract Value: £454,500

Category: Hardware Contracts

Contract DescriptionPurchase of an additional 500 laptops for test and trace teams

Dates: 10 June – 09 September 2020

Further Details: The contract was procured as a call off from a Framework Agreement (a mini-competition or direct purchase from a pre-existing framework agreement).

Total = £901,000

Ascensos

Contract Value: £1,290,000

Category: Miscellaneous Contracts

Contract DescriptionImmediate and rapid deployment of additional track and trace contact tracers 

Dates: Ends 23 September

Further Details:  Ascensos operates as a customer service outsourcer. Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to outsourcing Scotland’s Track and Protect System was criticised by some opposition politicians, arguing that it showed Scotland was struggling with its Track and Protect System. Nicola Sturgeon defended the decision by stating she was merely hiring extra staff. Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard tweeted: “Never mind the spin, this is outsourcing of NHS services plain and simple. We need to know how much public money is going into private hands.”

Accenture

Contract 1:

Contract Value: £48,000,000

Category: Software & App Development Contracts

Contract DescriptionTo deliver a security hub which incorporates cloud based IDS & IPS, data loss protection, next generation firewall and cloud based web proxies 

Dates: 5 August 2019 – 4 August 2024

Further Details: N/A

Contract 2:

Contract Value: £1,618,000

Category: Project Management / Consulting Contracts

Contract DescriptionTo provide resources to support the NHS X COVID Contact Tracing App

Dates: 25 May 2020 – 30 May 2020

Further Details: N/A

Contract 3:

Contract Value: £1,126,499

Category: Data Management Contracts

Contract DescriptionProvision of data science and analytical support to the Test & Trace Programme 

Dates: Unknown – 1 September 2020

Further Details: N/A

Contract 4:

Contract Value: £560,588

Category: Project Management / Consulting Contracts

Contract DescriptionSoftware integration consultancy services

Dates: 14 April 2020 – 1 June 2020

Contract 5:

Contract Value: £308,679

Category: Project Management / Consulting Contracts

Contract Description: Software integration consultancy services

Dates: 2 June 2020 – 30 June 2020

Contract 6:

Contract Value: £100,000

Category: Miscellaneous Contracts

Contract DescriptionEngage support units 

Dates: 19 October 2020 – 12 June 2021

Contract 7:

Contract Value: £25,000

Category: Miscellaneous Contracts

Contract Description: Death rate review

Dates: 11 May 2020 – 7 June 2020

Further Details: N/A

Total = £51,738,766

Amazon Web Services

Contract Value: £313,262

Category: Software & App Development Contracts

Contract DescriptionDevelopment of contact tracing software for COVID-19

Dates: 12 May 2020 – 30 July 2020

Further Details: N/A

Invotra

Contract Value: £285,600

Category: Miscellaneous Contracts

Contract DescriptionEmployee engagement system

Dates: 3 August 2020 – 4 August 2021

Further Details: Call off from a framework agreement.

Slack Technologies 

Contract Value: £11,700

Category: Software & App Development Contracts

Contract Description: License management software development services

Dates: 1 October 2020 – 30 September 2021

Further Details: Single tender action.

R Studio PBC

Contract Value: £29,248

Category: Software Development & App Development Contracts

Contract DescriptionOne year RStudio server licences that enable the collaboration, centralised management, metrics, security and commercial support that the contracting authority needs to operate at scale for the Test and Trace Solution

Dates: 14 July 2020 – 13 July 2021

Further Details: Single tender action.

Deloitte LLP

Contract 1:

Contract Value: N.A

Category: Project Management & Consulting Contracts

Contract Description1,000 consultants working on the Track and Trace Programme, known as “Operation Moonshot”

Dates: N/A

Further Details: Deloitte LLP has been responsible for the overall management of the testing programme, but not for the on-the-ground delivery. Deloitte charges anything up to £2,360 a day for each of its consultants.

Contract 2:

Contract Value: At least £8,000,000

Category: Data Management Contracts

Contract DescriptionTo set up a network of drive-through rapid testing centres

Dates: N/A

Further DetailsA contract(s) of undisclosed value was disclosed by Deloitte to set up and manage a network of 50 off-site testing in England and Scotland. The firm has also been responsible for managing logistics across these sites as well as booking tests, sending samples to laboratories and communicating test results.

Total = £8,000,000

ACF Technologies (UK) Ltd

Contract Value: £800,000

Category: Software & App Development Contracts and Hardware contracts

Contract Description: To provide the software, hardware and configuration to manage the queuing system and the testing capability for COVID-19

Dates: 13 April 2020 – 13 October 2020

Further Details: N/A

Virgin Media Business

Contract Value: £307,000

Category: Software & App Development Contract / Hardware Contracts

Contract Description: The provision of hardware and software to support COVID-19 call centre staff working from home

Dates: 1 July 2020 – 31 December 2020

Further Details: N/A

BMNT Ltd

Contract Value: £41,499

Category: Project Management / Consultancy contract

Contract DescriptionMedia development

Dates: 01 May 2020 – 31 May 2020

Further Details: The contract was procured as a call off from a Framework Agreement (a mini-competition or direct purchase from a pre-existing framework agreement). 

Capgemini

Contract Value: £643,620

Category: Data Management Contracts

Contract DescriptionProvision of data science and analytical support to the track and trace programme

Dates: Ends 1 September

Further Details: N/A

IBM United Kingdom Ltd

Contract Value: £1,183,752

Category: Data Management Contracts

Contract DescriptionProvision of data science and analytical support to the track and trace programme

Dates: Ends 1 September

Further Details: N/A

Methods Business and Digital Technology Ltd

Contract Value: £333,900

Category: Data Management Contracts

Contract DescriptionProvision of data science and analytical support to the test and trace programme

Dates: N/A

Further Details: N/A

Mango Business Solutions Ltd

Contract Value: £147,370

Category: Data Management Contracts

Contract DescriptionProvision of data science and analytical support to the track and trace programme

Dates: N/A

Further Details: N/A

Fujitsu

Contract value: £90,000

Category: Data Management Contract

Contract Description: Provision of data science and analytical support to the test and trace programme

Dates: N/A

Further Details: N/A



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