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HMRC prepares to replace CHIEF

Charlotte Jee Published 23 October 2013

Department hoping to find a substitute for the business critical system, with Capgemini contract due to expire in January 2015


HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is seeking views from suppliers regarding the replacement of its CHIEF [Customs Handling of Import & Export Freight] system.

The system is a business critical service for the department, facilitating the movement of international goods into and out of the UK and allowing importers, exporters and forwarders to meet their Customs' obligations with minimum manual intervention.

CHIEF allows HMRC to process over 46m transactions and collect £34bn in tax revenue every year. It also helps to accurately collect international trade and transport statistics, control the import and export of restricted goods and detect the smuggling of prohibited goods, according to the department.

The system was built by BT in 1989, but runs on Fujitsu's Super Nova platform using its proprietary VME open operating system. Capgemini took over the management of CHIEF from BT in January 2010, although it was contracted to 'run and enhance' the existing service rather than replace it.

With the Capgemini contract due to expire in January 2015, the department is now hoping to replace CHIEF, and so has published a pre-tender notice in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), asking for suppliers to come forward with their solutions.

The aim of the initial market consultation is to introduce the market to the CHIEF replacement programme and explain what HMRC needs from the forthcoming procurement, but also to help develop the department's understanding of the current market and any existing solutions available, to give them an idea of how a future solution could be compiled.

The OJEU notice explains that any provisions will need to be 'flexible to change and provide innovation throughout their contractual life', providing a robust service able to process and move goods '24 x 356' with minimal downtime. Services may include hosting, operation, support, development, management, disaster recovery of applications, and could also include future software and business process development work.

HMRC is due to hold a supplier briefing and market engagement day on 26 November 2013 at the Royal National Hotel in London, and will follow up with one-on-one meetings with potential providers during December 2013 to discuss ideas, concerns and options. It has emphasised a willingness to hear 'innovative proposals' from suppliers and consider consortia or collaborate bids as a means to involve small and medium sizes enterprises (SMES).

Kable principal analyst Chris Pennell said, "This has been flagged for some time so no surprise about market engagement. CHIEF is a key part of the risk assessment process that identifies which shipping consignments are most likely to be part of tax avoidance schemes. This area was recently highlighted in the border control review so better use of data and automation is likely to be a focus.

"CHIEF is based on Fujitsu's VME operating system, but HMRC will want to move away from legacy platforms. Given its central role in customs and excise the focus will be on increased automation of the front end with increased analytics and flagging from the back end."


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