Outraged bidders for the UK’s Schools Open Source Project have claimed that Becta, the government ‘IT in Education’ quango responsible for commissioning the project, is guilty of ‘cronyism’ and political sleaze.

Becta awarded the contract for overseeing the open source in schools project to The AlphaPlus Consultancy.

In response, Mark Taylor, president of the Open Source Consortium and the chief executive of enterprise support company Sirius, sent an open letter to Becta claiming that it was guilty of "political sleaze" and cronyism in offering the lucrative £270,000 contract to a relatively inexperienced agency.

Insiders and cronies

"Today, Friday 13th, Becta's open-source posturing is exposed as a sham, empty spin covering 'business as usual' political sleaze," wrote Taylor

"Becta awarded their Open Source Schools project to establishment insiders and cronies, with no open-source credentials or capabilities, rather than organisations who could and would make the project work. The losers, as usual, are British schools, British schoolchildren and British taxpayers."

No credentials

"But no, impeccable and proven open-source credentials, capability and community-building skills are apparently a hindrance to building a community of British schools using open source," Taylor continued in his stinging letter to Becta.

"Being Becta insiders is what matters, insiders who have no track record in open source, do not even give it a passing mention on their website, and until yesterday were completely unknown to anyone in either the industry or community. Just handed a quarter-of-a-million pounds, Becta's friends are now responsible for the direction open source takes in British schools, entirely removed from the UK open-source community and industry."

Becta calls for co-operation

Taylor added that the AlphaPlus commission was all about "about jobs for the boys, spin, and discrediting non-proprietary software"

In a statement, Becta said: "AlphaPlus came out on top overall but, as stated earlier, we anticipate that the nature of the work will mean that many parties in the education and open-source community will be involved in elements of the project delivery."