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Met Office faces court challenge over supercomputer deal


Mark Say Managing Editor

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IT services provider Atos is staging a legal challenge to the Meteorological Office and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) over the award of a major IT contract to Microsoft last year.

It has challenged the legitimacy of the contract for a supercomputing capability for weather and climate forecasting, saying its own bid had been unfairly deemed to be non-compliant.

According to a document from the Technology and Construction Court within the High Court of Justice, the contract was worth an estimated £845 million.

It says that only the two companies submitted final tenders, and that the defendants found the one from Atos to be non-compliant. It has responded by claiming there were “manifest errors in the evaluation of the tender”.

The dispute revolves around the “architectural equivalence” of a proposed development supercomputer and the main supercomputer, and whether there was sufficient transparency and consistency in the procurement.

Transparency factor

The document says: “The defendants, it is alleged, either made the decision on the basis of undisclosed requirements or interpreted the requirement of architectural equivalence in a way which would not be transparent to the reasonably well informed and normally diligent tenderer. It is also said that it was disproportionate for the defendants to determine that the claimant's tender was non-compliant rather than to seek further clarification.

“The defendants deny liability saying that the requirement of architectural equivalence was interpreted correctly; that the claimant's tender was scored correctly because the proposed development supercomputer did lack the required architectural equivalence to the main supercomputer; and that the conclusion that the tender was non-compliant did not involve either error or any other breach of the regulations.”

It adds that a nine-day trial was set to begin on 9 May, but a recent report in The Financial Times said it is now likely to be this month.


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