Stormy Times For Meteorological Procurement

The UK government faces trial in the High Court over its award of an £854 million contract for a new Meteorological Office IT system, according to the Financial Times.

The court case has arisen from accusations by ATOS, the French multinational information technology service and consulting company who are suing the Meteorological Office and Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as they claim their unsuccessful tender was due to breaches of the Governments obligations under the Public Contract Regulations 2015. ATOS lost out on the tender to Microsoft.

Court documents show that the new system is expected to be in the top 25 supercomputers in the world, with the objective of more accurately predicting storms and predicting changes to the global climate. The new supercomputer will also provide detailed information for the energy sector to help it take action against potential blackouts and power surges.

ATOS and Microsoft were the only two companies to submit a final tender, however, the ATOS tender response was considered to be non-compliant, being scored at 0/5 in each of three categories on the basis that the proposed development supercomputer system was not architecturally equivalent to the main supercomputer system.

However, ATOS challenges these scores, claiming there were errors in the evaluation of its tender response and in the conclusion that the proposed development supercomputer was not architecturally equivalent to the main supercomputer. ATOS further claims that the requirement of architectural equivalence was contrary to the obligation under the regulations for the procurement to be conducted with transparency and consistency. The company alleges the decision to award was made on the basis of undisclosed requirements or the requirement of architectural equivalence was interpreted in a way that would not be transparent to the reasonably well-informed and normally diligent tenderer.

The BEIS denies liability, saying that the requirement of architectural equivalence was interpreted correctly and that the ATOS tender was scored correctly and the proposed development supercomputer did lack the required architectural equivalence to the main supercomputer. Therefore the conclusion that the tender was non-compliant did not involve either error or any other breach of regulations.

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