This is a notable year for the FCO. It is in the middle of its seven-year Firecrest contract with HP and it is also the year to deliver on IT-driven savings. Following Sir Peter Gershon’s review of government efficiency, the FCO “committed to realising at least £118 million efficiency gains by 2007/08 through measures including improved information and communication technology (ICT) and more efficient procurement practices. These plans mean that more money will be redeployed away from back-office functions to frontline delivery areas.”

As well as the Hewlett Packard Future Firecrest (ICT infrastructure), notable IT related FCO contracts include: 3M (Ait Biometric passports); Cap Gemini Prism (FCO’s financial, HR, procurement and payroll system); Computacenter/Sun hardware and software support (UKvisas); Fujitsu Software and hardware support (UKvisas); Global Crossing UK Provision of FTN (telecommunications network); and Steria Limited hardware and software (UKvisas).

Although staff using the Prism database as it was rolled out were said to be at their “wits end” with teething problems, these were said to have been ironed out after some FCO posts were unable to use the system when it went live. Then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: “Data defining how the posts in South Asia and Russia/Central Asia Directorates should operate were originally programmed incorrectly in Prism. This was revealed when the posts went live on Prism between 7 and 9 February.”