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Revealed: GDS drafts in consultants to aid “urgent” Brexit preparations

The Government Digital Service has drafted in teams of consultants from Deloitte, Cognizant and PA Consulting to deliver projects relating to “urgent EU Exit requirements”, NS Tech can reveal.

The three deals, struck over the course of the last four months, are worth £1m each and have been designed to provide additional assistance to Whitehall departments struggling to roll out essential digital services ahead of the 31 October Brexit deadline.

According to a presentation to prospective suppliers earlier this year, there is “currently strain on digital, data and technology resources in government”. “Some needs develop so quickly that there is not enough time to procure through [the Digital Outcomes and Specialists procurement framework],” officials said.

The deals with Deloitte, Cognizant and PA Consulting form part of the government’s plan, as it is described in the presentation, to “allow [digital and data] requirements across central government to be met in short timescales”.

Whitehall’s Brexit planning has been accelerated since Boris Johnson took over as prime minister in July and fears that the UK will leave without a deal have grown. Ministers have vowed to spend £4bn on preparing for Brexit, but industry groups have warned that the government is not ready for the disruption no deal might trigger.

Digital services are expected to underpin most Brexit bureaucracy, from citizenship applications to trade arrangements. The latest contract notices do not provide detail on the nature of the projects the consultancy firms will work on, revealing only that the suppliers will “respond to urgent support requests received by GDS from departments affected by EU Exit”. However, they do provide an overview of the services being procured. The contracts cover product and delivery management, user research and software development.

“The supplier will work with internal government stakeholders from a range of disciplines, including architecture, security, policy, service and product management, finance, and delivery management,” the notices state. “Knowledge transfer back into HMG will be required to enable HMG to improve internal capability to build and support the services.”

The Cabinet Office has been contacted for comment.