Vodafone sues UK government after missing out on £184m Foreign Office contract

The company says the contract to supply secure communications to 532 British embassies was unfairly awarded to Fujitsu

Vodafone has filed a lawsuit against the UK government challenging a decision to award a £184 million networking contract to rival provider Fujitsu.

It's alleged that the contract, which is to upgrade the network infrastructure of 532 British embassies around the world, was awarded unfairly, as reported by Bloomberg.

Both Vodafone and Fujitsu failed to meet minimum quality thresholds for the contract, with a London judge revealing that Vodafone’s scores were worse than Fujitsu’s, according to court filings.

The Echo 2 contract was designed to connect the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) ministers, staff, and agents in over 170 countries, as well as the country’s cultural relations arm, the British Council. The contract is set to replace the Echo 1 contract, which was awarded to Cable and Wireless, a company acquired by Vodafone in 2012 for £1.04 billion, and that has its roots in connecting the British empire to its colonies.

Vodafone has now launched legal proceedings in the courts after losing the contract it inherited following the acquisition of Cable and Wireless.

“We do not believe this procurement process has been run properly,” a Vodafone spokesperson said to Bloomberg. “The procuring authority themselves stated the Fujitsu Solution is ‘not fit for purpose.’”

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The judge decided to expedite a full trial to take place in January 2022 and has allowed the government to enter into a conditional contract with Fujitsu.

Full details of the trial have been withheld by the judge for reasons of national security, who also said that the information could be useful to anyone wishing to harm the country.

The FCO has so far refused to comment while legal proceedings are ongoing.

Fujitsu's relationship with the UK government has been on shaky ground historically. Famously, the company was responsible for the creation of the Horizon accounting system, built for the Post Office in 1999, which would then be used to provide evidence to convict 736 subpostmasters in fraud cases spanning 2000 and 2014. It was later revealed that an error in the system had result in financial irregularities, leading to many of these convictions being overturned after almost two decades of legal battles.

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