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EDS boss defends government contract record

Head of EDS' European business defends the company's record on public sector projects and admits that 'real people' suffer when things go wrong
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Written by Colin Barker, Senior Reporter on

EDS, one of the largest IT services companies in the world, tries to carry out its business quietly, soaking up billions in UK government outsourcing contracts annually while maintaining as low a public profile as possible. But, in a rare break with tradition, the head of the company's business across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Bill Thomas, has given an interview.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, published on Monday, Thomas owned up to some of the major project failures EDS has seen in recent years with some key parts of the UK's infrastructure.

Thomas claimed that problems with major contracts are inevitable but that most work as planned. It is a fact that the failures attract the most publicity, he said, adding that "it's a simple fact that all the projects that go well are just not interesting".

The negative publicity surrounding EDS's loss, after nearly 10 years, of the £3bn contract at the Inland Revenue, was a case of "debugging really big government systems on the six o'clock news", said Thomas. "[It] is not a good thing."

But there are clear compensations. "We get paid billions of dollars for doing the work we do, and we have to be held account for that, and that's fine. It's part of the democratic process," said Thomas.

"These projects are very hard," he said. "When they go wrong, people suffer. Not just civil servants, but real people."

You can read Bill Thomas's interview with The Daily Telegraph here.

Despite Thomas's decision to speak publically, EDS continues to be dogged by bad publicity. It is now facing the prospect of seeing disruption in a very sensitive area, as soldiers, sailors and airmen could go unpaid if workers at the Armed Forces Pay Administration Agency — an EDS-run contract — go ahead with promised strike action. An overwhelming majority of workers at the agency — 93.5 percent — last week voted to go on strike over a pay dispute.

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