LCD's computer choice is branded 'illogical'

An Information technology company has lodged a complaint with the Lord Chancellor's Department (LCD) over the “illogical” selection of a rival computer system, costing £60m more, to be used in magistrates courts in England and Wales.

A private finance initiative deal worth £183m – known as Project Libra – was awarded to ICL and Unisys just before Christmas. They will supply computers and software to 500 magistrates courts. The service will be up and running in two to three years and the contract will run to 2009.

But competitor Electronic Data Systems (EDS) says it was forced to withdraw from the bidding process when the LCD deemed its proposals too high a risk because of the short time scale, says the company's director of strategic sales David Brondini.

ICL was left as the sole bidder as a consequence.

Brondini tells The Lawyer: “The LCD were very concerned that the time scales we were putting forward were unrealistic and high risk.

We put in a great deal of work to show them they were not. The LCD were not satisfied and they attached a 'category A' risk to it. So we withdrew from the bidding process.

“But now the time scales that were so risky for us are what ICL has been contracted to. It is not logical, and it's galling because we knew we could deliver better value at a lower cost and that was not allowed to be considered.”

An LCD spokesman says ICL was left as the only remaining bidder when EDS withdrew, so it was not clear what any eventual saving might have been as bids had not been finalised at that stage.

The Libra system will provide IT for case preparation, court schedules, results, fine accounting and enforcement, magistrates' training and rotas, bulk printing and mailing and licensing matters.

Alan Gibson, ICL's executive director, says: “The new system will not just standardise IT across the magistrates courts' service – there are currently three – but also take a longer term view of how IT systems can improve links between criminal justice agencies.”