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Printers: old monitors, computers, copy machines, and other office supplies in the waste

Government must atone for £900m printer deal


A paperless society is clearly not on everyone’s agenda as the government plans to spend £900m on printer deals, and those in charge of buying are set to take £9m in commission.

18th Jan 2021
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The big question is why is the government planning to spend nearly £1bn on printing services? And why is the government’s central buying team pushing for this? Clearly 2021 is not the year to go paperless and save the environment for the British government. 

Brexit may have created a lot of paperwork, and we may see government deals regularly under fire, but amidst a global pandemic and national recession, this sum is somewhat alarming.

Cabinet Office executive agency and trading fund Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is responsible for purchases and is launching a governance structure, encouraging suppliers to bid for the deal.

CCS is pushing the new framework for the supply of multifunctional devices (MFDs), managed print and content services. The framework intends to serve central government and public sector services, as well as potentially provisioning charities and devolved administrations.

However, the £900m "does not actually mean that amount of money is definitely going to be spent on the goods and services mentioned - no level of spend is guaranteed," CCS senior communications officer Nicholas Glover told AccountingWEB. "We are required by law to set a 'top amount' that could be spent through the framework. If that amount was reached we would be required to create a new framework and give all the potential suppliers out there another chance to join it."

"Our customers (public sector bodies like departments, local authorities, police, fire, schools, health bodies etc.) can use our framework agreements to procure goods and services," he added. "How much they choose to spend is up to them." According to CCS, the new framework replaces the current agreement 'Multifunctional Devices, Managed Print and Content Services and Records and Information Management' (RM3781) which expires in October 2021.

Most alarming is that if the top amount set is met, the government’s central buying team will make £9m as its 1% commission on sales procurement of the deal. 

However, the government framework bulletin is only a prior information notice and is not set in stone but lists what could be made available for vendors to bid for. The prospective contract is comprised of four lots: 

  • Lot 1: the provision of basic print management software, maintenance and support. 

  • Lot 2: hardware devices and consumables, software products and document workflow solutions, cloud hosting and SaaS printing solutions, legacy device management and print management.

  • Lot 3: managed print services, software products and document workflow solutions, cloud (SaaS) solutions, security and inventory management services, automated workflow optimisation and fleet management.

  • Lot 4: managed print and content management audits and consultancy services, evaluation, advice and recommendations in the context of sound strategic direction.

The deal is certainly not the most expensive printer framework. The government’s £4bn IT Hardware and Services (ITH&S) framework in 2012 cost £4bn, and offered deals to Insight Direct, Computacenter, Viglen, Misco, and Dell. However, print hardware was only one component of the 12 lots at the time.

And we can’t forget the printer turmoil suffered by the Irish government last year, which spent €0.8m on a printer that couldn't fit through parliament doors, and on which government staff refused to use. Another €0.23m was then spent removing parliament walls and door frames to make way for the machine, while it cost €2,000 a month (for nearly a year) in storage.

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