The Ministry of Justice has halted its £300 million End User Computing (EUC) "tower" procurement process, with the aim of getting a better deal and potentially involving smaller companies in line with government policy.

Part of the department’s FITS (Future IT Sourcing) programme, the five year desktop and laptop support contract had progressed a "significant way" since being announced last year, according to industry analysts TechMarketView.

The contract was set to cover 2,300 sites across the UK, including prisons, courts, probation service centres and other locations.

TechMarketView analyst Georgina O'Toole said: "We understand that suppliers recently submitted their BAFOs (Best and Final Offers). Bidding costs for each of the shortlisted players - Fujitsu, HP, Atos and Computacenter - will have hit hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not more."

She added: "Although not confirmed, it looks as if the Cabinet Office has become involved and determined that the procurement wasn’t closely enough aligned with the UK government’s ICT strategy [which aims to involve SMEs in procurements where possible].

From what we can gather, the MoJ will now seek to dis-aggregate the contract into smaller components with a view to attracting a broader range of bidders.

The shortlist for the "tower" was made up of the "usual suspects" for desktop services in central government, said TechMarketView, with Fujitsu, Atos and HP, plus Computacenter.

O'Toole said: "We had always assumed that Computacenter, if it played its cards right, had a very good chance of winning the deal, as the government sought to spread the spoils."

She added: "When the department retenders for the contract at a later date - yet to be confirmed - it will be looking for some other names on the shortlist. Whether it achieves that goal will depend on how it restructures the deal and the size of the components on offer."

Involvement of SMEs in the new bidding process could include SMEs partnering with larger suppliers on a sub-contracted basis.