Europe urges Governments across Europe to move quickly to avoid ICT
lock-in by 'practicising what they promote' through 'Open Procurement'
Brussels - 25th June 2013 - OpenForum Europe
(OFE) strongly supports the European Commission's Communication “Against
lock-in: building open ICT systems using standards”, and its Commission
staff working paper “Guide for the procurement of standards-based ICT
-Elements of Good Practice”, published today.
These important documents stress how necessary it is to avoid lock-in in ICT systems and they promote the use of global ICT standards in public procurement. OFE stands ready to support the Commission in driving the use of these documents by public bodies across Europe.
OFE's key objective is to drive an open, competitive market in Europe based on fair competition. These Commission documents work towards that same goal.
- Commodity Hardware and Software Dec 12, 2013
Government Procurement Service - Commodity IT Hardware and Software – supplier workshops
We have released three Prior Information Notices (PINs), developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence and Pro5, that set out our intention to establish contracting routes to meet the commodity IT hardware and software requirements of the public sector. These proposed procurements aim to consolidate existing frameworks and create a clear procurement landscape for commodity IT requirements.
The three PINS are:
- Transactional IT Procurement Solution - a commercial solution for the provision of basic, low value, standard, high volume transactions
- IT Products, Associated Services and Solutions - a complementary solution to address more complex or higher value requirements, enabling Government to compete aggregated volume purchases across the industry
- Software Solutions - a solution specifically designed to meet common software requirements through specialist providers
- Preventing the next government IT disaster Nov 20, 2013
University of Cambridge - From Obamacare to Universal Credit, government has a poor record when it comes to handling major IT projects. Happily research by Dr Mark Thompson is laying the foundations of a new IT strategy which many hope will open up new markets and opportunities for innovation.
By laying the foundations of the Government’s current information technology (IT) strategy, research by Dr Mark Thompson, University Senior Lecturer in Information Systems at Cambridge Judge Business School, is enabling local and national government cut IT costs – and helping open up new markets and opportunities for innovation for small businesses across the country.
When academic research changes government policy, its impact can be far reaching, but when that policy concerns the way government procures IT, its impact on design and delivery of public services can be profound. Thompson’s 2009 white paper – Open Source and Open Standards – for George Osborne (now Chancellor of the Exchequer) is a case in point.
A pioneer of open innovation thinking in the UK public sector, Thompson runs Methods – a multi-million pound business – as well as studying the business world. He believes that by learning from the success of platform-based business models like eBay and Amazon, local and national government can not only save money but stimulate innovation.
- Usual suspects make UK.gov Digital Services supplier list Nov 15, 2013
The Channel - Some 183 suppliers have bagged a place on a nine-month, £40m public sector framework to bid for digital services project work, with a third of the firms new to government work.
A tender was issued by Government Procurement Services in July. It had been looking for a maximum of 999 suppliers to provide software engineering and support; sysadmin and web operations; content design and development; and user research.
This is all part of the government's efforts to save £1.7bn annually by 2015 by pushing its public sector transactions online.
The Cabinet Office said 84 per cent of the total supplier lineup are SMEs, and 70 of the firms have not sold to public sector buyers before and nearly all of these are considered small fry.
Francis Maude, Cabinet Office Minister, said the deal proved "we are levelling the playing field for government contracts" and "giving opportunities to new entrants".
The problem is that compared to the billions of cash dished out to the usual suspects, this £40m framework pales into insignificance.
- It's time for government to increase transparency in procurement Oct 28, 2013
The Guardian - Open procurement is not just about data, it's also about engaging with suppliers.
A thorough training in statistics many years ago impressed on me that statistics are useful at indicating the right questions to ask, but on their own rarely provide answers.
Politicians of all parties seem to accept that transparency of information and data can lead to greater accountability and improved services. The previous Labour government introduced the Freedom of Information Act. Critics argued that this would lead to secretive decision-making, but journalists now regularly use the act to hold public sector bodies to account.
Transparency of data is also seen as key to improving NHS services, but as NHS director Richard Greave noted last year on the Public Leaders Network, people need to understand the story behind the data.
- OFT reveals ICT procurement concerns that sparked inquiry Oct 28, 2013
Public Technology -The Office for Fair Trading has revealed the concerns about public sector ICT procurement that led it to launch an inquiry into sector.
Suppliers had told the regulator that certain businesses appeared to have an unfairly large share of contracts in some areas of the sector, as well as difficulties and high costs in switching between suppliers.
The information was provided to the OFT as part of a “call for information” (CFI) earlier in the year, where it asked businesses in the sector for their views on the state of the market. Earlier this week the office said it had begun a market study to study the degree of competition between companies in the sector, as well as barriers to entry and expansion, particularly for small firms.
- Counting down to the new EU procurement directives Oct 28, 2013
Procurement Portal - Last week, at an event organised by the Procurement Lawyers' Association in London, the European Parliament, European Commission and Cabinet Office revealed the latest plans for EU adoption and UK implementation of the new EU Procurement Directives.
Here are the headlines:
- OFT probe: Do small UK firms get fair shake in public sector tenders? Oct 16, 2013
The Register - Armed with data provided from suppliers and public sector IT bods, the Office of Fair Trading will now launch a probe into the state of the government tech landscape and whether SMEs are getting a fair share.
Back in July, the competition watchdog put out a call for information as bids to discover if competition is alive and well, which is pretty much what the government wants taxpayers to believe.
ICT goods and services accounting for £13.8bn of the public sector purse in fiscal '12, but those that responded to the OFT survey voiced concerns that will sound all too familiar to anyone in the industry.
- References to brand names continue to plague ICT procurement throughout Europe Oct 09, 2013
OFE - For the fifth consecutive year, OpenForum Europe reports on the EU Member States' practice of referring to specific trademarks when procuring for ICT products. In this report, we found that 17% of all tender notices contained an explicit reference to specific brands, and a worrying 13% either directly asked for the provision of specific products (in breach of EU law), or gave them a strong preference. Some countries, like Italy and Slovenia, are doing much worse in this regard than others. Overall, these results show a trend of continued discrimination that distort competition and waste the EU taxpayer's money.
- The target: 25% of UK gov IT from small biz... The reality: Not even close Sep 26, 2013
The Register - Proud mandarins ignoring Cabinet Office's master plan, note MPs
The UK government is way off its target of sourcing a quarter of its IT gear and services from small businesses by 2015.
That's according to a report out this month by Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that criticises the government's ICT strategy.
- All public bodies to adopt SME-friendly business rules Sep 23, 2013
GOV.UK - A new government consultation will open up business across the public sector.
Plans to make it simpler and easier for smaller businesses to bid for and win work across the entire public sector were announced today by Cabinet Office Minister Chloë Smith.
Accounting for 99.9% of the UK’s 4.5 million businesses, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are a crucial engine for growth. Building on central government reforms to make its business more accessible to small and medium sized businesses, and recognising good practice across the wider public sector, the government has today launched a consultation taking forward Lord Young’s recommendations to create an SME-friendly ‘single market’ for public procurement.
View the consultation and find out how to respond.
- PASC report (Public Administration Select Committee) on public procurement – our full review Sep 04, 2013
Spend Matters UK - We featured the UK parliament’s Public Administration Select Committee report when it was issued a few weeks back but our detailed review got overtaken somewhat by other public sector news like the Health procurement strategy and David Smith’s retirement!
One comment made since publication was the lack of any practitioners from government departments giving evidence. I kicked myself when I read this – of course, it’s a great point and we should have made it here. My only defence is it is hard to know who is going to be called as witnesses until the review is complete, so at what stage does it become clear that there is a gap? Anyway, a well-made point. And finally, here is our more detailed look at the PASC findings.
- A question of procurement Aug 28, 2013
Government Computing - What is the government’s latest thinking on developing the Crown Commercial Service, its relationship with suppliers of all sizes and their performance, the role of frameworks and ‘dynamic purchasing’? David Bicknell reports.
Earlier this summer at the government’s announcement of meeting its £10bn spending targets, chief procurement officer Bill Crothers said government procurement was set for greater integration.
That, together with the stated development of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), raised questions of how that integration might be achieved.
Recently, Government Computing was given a briefing by deputy chief procurement officer Sally Collier on how integration plans were developing, how moves towards a new European procurement directive were proceeding and how government is continuing to develop its relationships with suppliers both large and small.
Currently, government procurement has commercial policy activity and operations across the country, with staff based in Norwich and London and Government Procurement Service (GPS) sites based in Liverpool, Newport, Norwich and London.
What Collier is keen to put over is the scale of ambition in the development of the Crown Commercial Service where the fundamental building block is a move away from moving from being a “framework shop” to providing a fully managed commercial service.
That means taking steps to hire “the very best (commercial) people in the country.”
- Coalition plans for SMEs in public sector procurement will fail Aug 16, 2013
The Information Daily - The Government and Lord Young want SMEs to share in public sector procurement. To do this they will have to take on a monolithic, ranks-closing, street-fighting behemoth.
The government is trailing its intention to vigorously intervene so that “thousands” of micro-businesses (MBs) get a bite at the massive public sector pie. The government wants this because it hopes that this will kick-start MBs on the road to building successful small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and this in turn will benefit the economy.
This muscular assertiveness on the part of the Government is a result of a report by David Young - Baron Young of Graffham minister first for Trade and Industry and then for Employment under Mrs Thatcher - that says Government efforts to help micro-businesses in the public sector procurement arena are woefully inadequate.
The Government means well but it unfortunately it hardly understands the problem never mind having any idea of the solution.
- Government to put 50% of all new IT spend through SMEs Aug 13, 2013
Computer Weekly - The government wants to put half of all new IT spending through small IT suppliers – doubling the previous target that was designed to break the oligopoly of major system integrators that dominate Whitehall IT.
The ambitious new objective was revealed in the Cabinet Office’s latest report on progress to put 25% of government spending through small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across all areas of purchasing, by 2015.
The new figure for IT was hidden away on page 16 of the 35-page report, and said: “Our ambition is that at least 50% of spend on new government IT flows to SMEs directly and in the supply chain. In exceptional cases where large IT contracts are required, we will expect at least 25% of the supply chain of those contracts to go to SMEs.”
Until recently, 80% of central government IT work was undertaken by just 18 large suppliers, according to the National Audit Office.
But through initiatives such as the G-Cloud framework, SME suppliers are starting to win more business as the new IT leadership regime in the Cabinet Office enforces limits on the size of Whitehall IT contracts. Over 60% of the £31m sales through G-Cloud have gone to SMEs so far.
- Crown Commercial Service: three key questions Aug 02, 2013
The Guardian - Will the creation of the Crown Commercial Service radically reshape the management of public sector procurement?
The Public Administration Select Committee's (Pasc) report on 19 July stated that "the government had failed to set out a clear strategy for public procurement and that there remained a lack of clarity about the government's longer term policy for the consolidation of (central) government and wider public sector procurement."
Next thing minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude, who has responsibility for driving the Whitehall efficiency agenda including procurement, commissioned a quick review by McKinsey, to examine the case for creating a 'Crown Commercial Service'. McKinsey conclusively decided in favour and the creation of the CCS as a public sector agency was announced on 24 July.
Both Maude and head of government procurement, Bill Crothers, when pressed by Pasc chair Bernard Jenkin concurred with the creation of such an organisation. It is now to become a reality. However, key questions remain as to its capacity for change and influence.
....The proposed 'complex transactions team' in the CCS will initially provide professional expertise for IT contracts and gradually take over responsibility. Departments will retain responsibility for departmental related specialist procurements, but already one can foresee a gradual shifting of definitions. For example, offender tagging is a specialist departmental initiative, but it is also an IT one. If the CCS is seen to be successful, we will see a pretty quick migration of procurement responsibilities to it.
- 'Incomplete' MP's procurement report fails to consider the frontline Jul 31, 2013
The Guardian - Change can't happen if PASC doesn't take evidence from those dealing with procurement procedure on a daily basis.
The Commons public administration committee report on government procurement, published on 19 July, contains some sound recommendations, although few which haven't been made before.
It calls for clear public procurement strategy backed by comprehensive data. There is undoubtedly scope to reduce the time taken to award many contracts, and to further centralise procurement in some categories while still encouraging participation by SMEs and social enterprises.
However, the evidence considered by the committee, and the analysis contained in the report, is both incomplete and weighted towards the supplier perspective. It is all too easy to blame EU directives and inefficient civil servants for the UK's procurement shortcomings. It is more difficult – but ultimately more instructive – to consider how procurement strategy interacts with the realities faced by frontline procurers, and to involve them, as well as suppliers and the third sector, in developing policy.
Pasc took evidence from representatives of business, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the third sector, procurement and commercial advisors, commentators, academics, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude and senior Cabinet Office staff. It did not take evidence from those who conduct procurement procedures on a daily basis, either at individual departments or the National Procurement Service. This means a key perspective is missing from the report, and one which is essential to implement any changes to the way procurement is conducted in the UK.
- A new quango overseeing Whitehall contracts. What could possibly go wrong? Jul 25, 2013
Daily Telegraph (Blog) - The Government has just announced the creation of the Crown
Procurement Service. This super-duper new agency is going to mean
greater efficiency when Whitehall spends our money. Or so we are told.
A top-down government quango overseeing contracts centrally? What could possibly go wrong?
This new agency will, I fear, do to Whitehall spending what the FSA did for banking. What looks clever and rational on the Cabinet Office drawing board will end badly.
Ominously, we hear precisely the same arguments that were once used to justify the creation of our bankrupt defence procurement regime invoked to explain this new quango.
"This agency will mean more economies of scale," they say. "More purchasing power will give us all better value for money," the churnalists faithfully recount.
- UK gov 'still failing' at procurement, says Commons committee Jul 24, 2013
The Channel - Systemic failures in government procurement and contract management continue "unabated" three years after the coalition vowed to tackle inefficiencies in the way public sector people buy tech.
This is according to the House of Commons' Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) led by Bernard Jenkins MP (Con), which conceded the initiatives introduced by the Cabinet Office had improved processes – but not by nearly enough.
The committee said government spends £227bn a year on goods and services but could save taxpayers "significant sums of money" if ministers are able to finally get on top of the problems.
The PASC report found that EU directives which rule over UK procurement reinforced a "process oriented, risk averse culture" among those that write the cheques, causing delays and rising costs.
"To be fair, there are failures of procurement in the private sector too but that is no excuse," said Jenkin.
- Government procurement ''is not working'' Jul 22, 2013
PublicService - The government's current procurement policy is helping large private firms dominate public service markets, creating dependency and giving a small number of providers an enormous amount of power over the buyers – national and local government, according to Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise UK.
In response to the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) report on government procurement, Holbrook said: "Smaller providers like social enterprises – organisations that reinvest profits and are answerable to communities – are squeezed out of contracts; their expertise and strong track record of helping society's most vulnerable people lost. We need a mixed market where providers of all sizes can play their part."
Holbrook said he was "very pleased" that the committee had picked up on what was happening in outsourced public services. The committee had said it was "astonished" at some of its findings, but it's unlikely that the general public will be astonished, Holbrook claimed. They have heard too many stories about delivery failure, including the way that G4S and Serco and other giant businesses are treating taxpayers' money.
- MPs condemn ‘procurement paralysis’ within government Jul 19, 2013
CivilSociety - The government has failed to do enough to improve the access of social enterprises and small businesses to public contracts, according to a new report from the Public Administration Select Committee.
The report is highly critical of both the Cabinet Office (pictured) and the civil service and says it is “intolerable” that public procurement here still takes 50 per cent longer than it does in France or Germany. “The Cabinet Office does not seem to know why this is the case,” the Committee said.
The PASC acknowledges that the government has initiated steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its procurement processes, by improving its data, aggregating demand across government departments, and renegotiating relationships with major suppliers.
However, it adds that the “stream of procurement and contract management failures continues unabated”, citing the G4S and Serco contracts with the Ministry of Justice, where payments were made regardless of the service delivered, as recent examples.
“The civil service shows a consistent lack of understanding about how to gather requirements, evaluate supplier capabilities, evaluate relationships or specify outcomes.”
- OFT Call for information on the supply of ICT to the public sector Jul 19, 2013
Computer Weekly - I regularly hear complaints that public sector procurement is dominated by a cartel of a dozen or players advised by teams of consultants (often former civil servants) and that any small firm with an innovative solution should run a mile before it is suckered into making futile bids and bankrupted. Yesterday my attention was drawn to the opportunity for the whingers to have their say.
The Office of Fair Trading recently issued a call for information on the supply of ICT services to the public sector including barriers to changing supplier and barriers to entry, especially for smaller businesses.
I personally have very strong views on the way that framework contracts have been used to replace in-house services by expensive and inefficient monopolies, such as Civil Service Learning on which I have blogged before. I believe there should be a competitive market for procurement services, with league tables showing their costs, efficiencies, audiences (both buyers and suppliers) and throughput (over time) so that central and local government operations can make informed decision which to use, for what - and suppliers can decide which are good sources of business and therefore worth the cost and time of bidding to join.
- £40m government IT framework up for grabs for small firms Jul 15, 2013
CRN - Government says it wants to move away from buying legacy IT from large systems integrator.
The government is looking to open the door to smaller suppliers as it unveils a £40m IT framework aimed at SMBs who have been "locked out" of government business in the past.
The Digital Services Framework has been put together jointly by the Government Procurement Service and Government Digital Services, and aims to sign up suppliers for a range of digital tech services. The government claims the framework forms part of its efforts to move away from only buying legacy IT from large systems integrators.
The framework, which is accepting applications until August, is looking for firms of all sizes to provide services around software engineering, support and systems administration. It is set to run for nine months.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the framework demonstrates the government's commitment to making IT procurement fairer for suppliers and more cost efficient for government.
- Public sector contracts all tied up? Jul 08, 2013
ChannelPro - OFT calls for investigation into dominance of few big IT suppliers in public sector
This week the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) called for an investigation the supply of ICT goods and services into the public sector
It wants suppliers and purchasers to get in touch about their experiences of the procurement process to ensure “healthy competition” in the sector.
“Information and communication technology…is key to improving productivity in public services as well as businesses. Given the vital role that this technology plays in the delivery of public services and the cost to the taxpayer, the OFT believes it is important to explore whether there are any restrictions on competition,” said OFT chief executive, Clive Maxwell, in a statement.
- A quarter of government ICT procurement to involve SMEs by 2015 Jun 28, 2013
Computing - The government's Open Standards Principles is one of a number of factors - including G-Cloud, that'll help it achieve a target of reaching a quarter of all ICT procurement contracts being provided to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has said.
The Open Standard Principles are an agreed set of standards designed to make government IT more open, cheaper and better connected. Maude made the comments during a speech at The Cabinet Office's Procurement Briefing 2013, a conference about government technology procurement attended by Computing.
"These standards will improve competition for government contracts, allowing us to open up to a larger number of suppliers and encourage innovation," Maude told the audience of senior officials.
"It's not just about direct spend with SMEs which we want to increase, but this goes deep into that supply chain as well. We want to open up the supply chain and that's how we'll get to our ambition, our aspiration, that by value, 25 per cent of government business should be with SMEs by 2015."
Maude admitted that it's been tough implementing the changes to ICT procurement in the public sector, especially as it involves bringing organisations out of their traditional "comfort zones".
- Digital Agenda: Open standards would save public sector €1 billion a year Jun 26, 2013
Europa - The Commission today releases a new policy to help public authorities avoid dependence on a single ICT supplier. Following the recommendations in this new "against lock-in" approach could save the EU's public sector more than €1.1 billion a year. For example, open tendering procedures can attract increased numbers of bidders with better value bids (doubling the number of bidders typically lowers contract size by 9%).
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes says: "Open standards create competition, lead to innovation, and save money. The guide issued today is here to help national authorities grab every opportunity for innovation and efficiency."
Working with standards – rather than specifying a single ICT brand, tool, system, or product – when procuring ICT systems saves taxpayers' money. However, many organisations either lack the expertise to decide which standards are relevant to their ICT needs, or fear that the initial costs of change would be too costly and might lead to loss of data. As a result, they remain locked into their ICT systems or into a relationship with only one provider.
In addition, greater use of standards makes it easier to exchange data between public systems, so citizens can supply their data only once to any public administration and it will facilitate cross-border eGovernment services that citizens and businesses need when travelling/working/studying/doing business within the EU.
- CIPS and Maude – a strong push-back on a narrow procurement vision Jun 04, 2013
Spend Matters / UK/Europe - After Francis Maude, Minister in the UK Cabinet Office with responsibility for public procurement spoke recently at the PASC and made his worrying comments about procurement being the “bit in the middle” (see here and here), we hoped CIPS might respond on behalf of the profession.
And now David Noble, the Chief Executive, has done so. As well as picking up on that narrow view of procurement, Noble raises some notes of caution around the centralising programme.
“… we are disappointed to have heard the recent evidence from the Rt Honourable Francis Maude MP, … that portrays Government procurement as a narrowly focussed and technical activity sandwiched between developing an understanding of supply markets and contract management.
There still remains an ingrained mis-understanding about true value of procurement in the public sector sphere. The focus on ‘tactical’ procurement initially is disappointing. Yes, centralising this ‘tactical’ element in theory is a sensible move – but we stress the need for caution – making assumptions around standardisation and economies of scale are not easy to address”.
- Ixis secure Bristol Council deal through Government cloud Jun 04, 2013
BDaily - Cheshire-based high-growth web specialist, Ixis, has secured a major contract with Bristol City Council through the Government’s G-Cloud III procurement framework.
Ixis, who are specialists in a content management software called Drupal, will provide support and consultancy services for Bristol City Council’s digital presence.
The deal was secured through the Government’s G-Cloud III, which is a purchasing programme that hopes to introduce cloud-based services into central government, local authorities and the public sector.
Bristol City Council has a particular commitment to exploiting Open Source technologies and is increasingly working with SMEs.
- Francis Maude at PASC – select committee digs into UK government procurement May 17, 2013
Spend Matters - The UK parliament’s Public Administration Select Committee held the final hearing of their investigation into public sector procurement this week, and appropriately their witness was Francis Maude, the Minister with responsibility for the subject.
As we’ve said many times, he is more interested in and knowledgeable about procurement than any other Minister we’ve had, and his hour or so on the topic was low key in style but quite illuminating.
He got some good questioning from Bernard Jenkin, the Chair, but some of the other Committee members were poor in terms of their lack of any real insight or challenge. Here are some of the key moments anyway.
Maude started by claiming that the Cabinet Office has saved £5.5B last year and £8B this year. Not “helped the departments to save”, we note. This is one of the things that rightly annoys officials and Ministers about Cabinet Office – the way they are taking the credit for what is really a combined effort with the budget holding departments. A lesson there for procurement people everywhere actually as well in terms of stakeholder management.
- Private sector IT experts brought in to improve government procurement value Apr 30, 2013
Public Technology - Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has announced that six new Crown Representatives have been chosen to work with departments to support early supplier engagement in procurement contracts.
The news brings in a significant IT presence to support procurement - IT systems being a huge expense to government which has previously suffered from long term contract lock-in in a fast moving industry.
They will also be working to improve relationships and negotiate the best contracts on behalf of government.
The Representatives include James Hall, who spent 30 years at technology company Accenture, Graham Jackson, who has three decades of experience, including specifically in procurement in the IT and telecoms industries, and David Jephson who has also spend 30 years in IT working for major brands.
Ian Tyler, former director of Balfour Beatty, Michael Wade, who has worked for various companies in the insurance sector, and Rob Wilmot, a founding CTO at Freeserve were also appointed.
- Court annuls public tender for Microsoft software in the Municipality of Almada Apr 29, 2013
ESOP - Following a legal action brought by ESOP to the Administrative and Fiscal Court of Almada, public tender no. 31A2012 regarding licensing and maintenance of Microsoft software costing up to 550.000,00 EUR was annulled. The tender, now deemed illegal, was launched by the City of Almada and prevented all the competing solutions from being supplied.
It is the first court decision of this type in Portugal. The court confirms that, according to the Portuguese Law, public tenders must include functional requirements and must NOT include specific brands.
The specifications of the tender released by the City of Almada prevented any company other than Microsoft (or intermediary companies engaged in the resale of licenses from this manufacturer) from submitting proposals.
- London Boroughs join forces in mighty £1bn IT procurement framework Apr 09, 2013
The Channel - A collective of London borough councils are pulling together their purchasing power in a mega IT products and services framework worth up to £1.1bn over four years.
An invitation to tender was sent to prospective suppliers late last week covering three lots - distributed computing, service desk and data centre services.
Westminster City Council is the contracting authority setting up the framework on behalf of itself and 32 other local councils, with the plan to have services operational by November next year.
The tender document stated that WCC and other boroughs currently use a variety of service providers to cover different parts of IT services - some outsourced, some run in-house, others mixed.
As such the requirements may differ - some will issue call offs for each lot and some may not, and not all of the services included in each lot will be required by each council.
"This means that service providers will have to be flexible in that which they offer to the council and other participating authorities," the tender stated.
- Public sector procurement needs to be more ‘defined’ Apr 02, 2013
SupplyManagement - CEO David Noble has argued that a higher profile for procurement in the public sector could greatly improve performance on major public projects.
Speaking at the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) hearing yesterday Noble said: “Procurement needs to be more defined about what it actually does as a profession. There have been significant steps forward but it doesn’t go far enough across government.”
He also said the profession needs to be licensed at all levels to attract the best and to give the activity the necessary authority.
He added problems arise in large projects, with money often lost in post-contract claims, because management is not sustained across the whole contracting process.
But he said: “There is an international perception that UK public procurement is ahead of the game. We are working with central government to get leaders to share skills.”
- Openforum Europe: Procurement law fails to address discriminatory practices Mar 01, 2013
Joinup - Using technical specifications to discriminate ICT solutions continues to be a widespread practice within the EU, says Openforum Europe, advocating the use of open standards in ICT. Publishing the results of its audit of European procurement, OFE yesterday urged for action. "These persisting discriminatory practices are not properly addressed."
OFE yesterday shared the results of its most recent inspection of 'invitations to tender' published in the Official Journal of the European Union. It studied 785 tender requests from the last quarter of 2012. "Almost one in five, 19 per cent, includes technical specifications with explicit references to trademarks. That is the highest in the last three years."
"Such practices are against the principles of competition and the fulfilment of the Single Market" OFE writes. It says that this discrimination is an obstacle to small and medium-sized enterprises. "The procurement market should be open, innovative and transparent."
- Cabinet Office hits the road to engage with ‘new generation’ of suppliers Jan 30, 2013
ComputerWorldUK - The government has begun a tour of the UK, where it will be hosting a number of events to engage with a ‘new generation’ of IT suppliers that will help the Cabinet Office deliver on its ambitions of transforming public services for the digital era.
Chief technology officer, Liam Maxwell, and crown representative for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), Stephen Allott, will be hosting events in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and London.
The Cabinet Office has said that government departments are looking to work with ‘more innovative and efficient IT suppliers’ to help deliver savings of £1.2 billion by 2015 by digitising public services and transactions, a plan that was set out in the government’s Digital Services Strategy.
- How e-invoicing could revolutionise public sector procurement Jan 14, 2013
The Guardian - Many other countries in Europe no longer use paper invoicing because they believe electronic trading is so much more efficient. Two Tory MPs say it's time Britain caught up.
Electronic invoicing could streamline government administration at a stroke, save taxpayers billions of pounds and enable the government to use its immense purchasing power to open new markets.
- New gov rules stick pin into bloated ICT frameworks Jan 09, 2013
The Register - Following an internal review of government IT procurement, the Cabinet Office has announced that it has scrapped plans to use some existing ICT frameworks.
It has said that government departments will only be able to establish framework agreements in future if they can show it will "explicitly deliver against key strategic needs" and if suppliers "of all sizes" are given a "reasonable chance" of winning work through the system.
Framework agreements allow buyers to obtain services they want from a select list of "pre-approved" suppliers without "excessive procurement procedures and the need for extensive tendering" to occur, the Cabinet Office said.
"Framework agreements only work if they deliver what they set out to deliver and drive the greatest competition from a wider range of suppliers, including SMEs – that’s why we’re strengthening procurement by ensuring they align with what Government needs as well as working for suppliers," Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary Chloe Smith said in a statement.
- Government plans £100m digital framework for agile development Dec 20, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - A ‘neutral vendor’ will be responsible for providing suppliers to support government departments.
The Government Procurement Service and the Government Digital Service (GDS) have agreed the need for a new ‘digital procurement framework’, which aims to provide government departments access to a pool of suppliers of agile software development.
It is hoped that the framework will support the government’s recently unveiled Digital Strategy, which outlined plans to digitise thousands of transactions used by the public, in a bid to save the public sector £1.7 billion a year after 2015.
It also said that digitising transactions, such as paying car tax, booking driving tests, completing tax returns, or applying for pensions, could deliver savings of up to £1.2 billion over the next three years.
- How to liberate government IT from its hostage situation with system suppliers Dec 20, 2012
The Guardian - Central government IT systems have become a byword for complexity, opacity, expense and poor delivery.
Central government departments are increasingly being held hostage by a handful of huge, often overseas, suppliers of customised all-or-nothing IT systems.
These administrative IT systems, which cost 1% of GDP, have become a byword for complexity, opacity, expense and poor delivery.
Unfortunately, hostage and hostage taker have become closely aligned in Stockholm-syndrome fashion. Many people in the public sector now design, procure, manage and evaluate these IT systems and ignore the exploitative nature of the relationship.
- EC postpones its guideline on ICT standardisation and procurement Dec 18, 2012
Joinup - The European Commission will postpone until early next year the publication of its guideline on how to make best use of ICT standards in tender specifications. Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, in a video speech on Friday said that the guideline should ensure that public authorities get the most value from open source and open standards. "And also that open source suppliers can compete fairly in tenders."
The guideline is one of the actions of the Digital Agenda for Europe. The draft was published almost exactly one year ago, following an EC workshop on ICT procurement.
The draft warns that choosing standards is complex and public administrations should be aware. For instance, the draft begins: "Whilst standards that are set through formal standard setting organisations go through a formal development process, they may still contain barriers to implementation by all interested parties, or may not be widely implemented by the market."
This 'Communication on standardisation and public procurement' was originally planned to be adopted this year. However, in a message posted on Twitter on Friday, Carl-Christian Buhr, member of the cabinet of Kroes, said the planning "looks challenging" and may slip to early 2013.
- Cabinet Office puts all new ICT frameworks on hold Nov 01, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - An internal review is being carried out to assess frameworks are the best method for procurement.
All upcoming Government Procurement Service (GPS) ICT procurements have been put on hold pending the outcome of a newly launched internal review to assess the effectiveness of the current framework approach.
Framework agreements allow departments to sign a number of suppliers, providing a variety of services, to one contract. The aim is that this gives buyers more choice at a lower cost.
However, Bill Crothers, government chief procurement officer, has now asked David Shields, managing director of GPS, to lead the review to assess whether or not this is the best approach.
- EU policy-makers roll out red carpet for cloud adoption Sep 28, 2012
The Register - Public sector procurement regulators at the European Union (EU) look to have finally got a grasp on the issues around cloud computing in Europe – which is good news for both users and providers of cloud computing services.
Like the UK government, with its G-Cloud initiative, the EU has declared that the use of public software-as-a-service solutions is the way forward to meet public sector IT needs.
At EU level, this support is taking tangible shape in the form of a European Cloud Partnership (ECP), funded to the tune of €10m. The aim of the ECP – which is made up of various public sector procurement officers from across Europe – is to help the sector leverage its buying power. It will do this by identifying common requirements and standards across Europe and supporting procurements to meet these common needs.
- Latvian IT procurement guide to remove barriers to open technology Aug 29, 2012
Joinup - Latvia's public administrations procuring IT solutions need to formulate bids that allow real competition, that do not hinder bidders from suggesting open source solutions and must include vendor-independent technical specifications, recommend the Latvian Open Technology Association and Latvia's Procurement Monitoring Bureau in a report published in July.
Their procurement report is titled 'Issues and Recommendations in IT procurement'. The tackles a broad range of problems found in the country's IT procurement. A few of these conflicts are related to open source and open standards.
For example, public administrations sometimes ban the use of software published under open source licences, such as the GNU Public Licence. The organisations note that these contracting authorities erroneously believe that such a licence forces them to make public the derived software solution.
- Free software group hints of court action to enforce procurement rules Jul 31, 2012
Joinup - Free software advocates in Finland are warning that they will take the country's public administrations to court if they continue to break national and European rules when procuring IT solutions. The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is calling on public authorities to allow competition and to stop procuring specific brands or products.
Last week, the FSFE's Finland chapter announced the start of a campaign to make procurement rules clear to public administrations. "That is our primary aim. But we're going to write down the names of all the officials involved, to use as evidence in court in case they continue to make mistakes", warned Otto Kekäläinen, FSFE's Finland coordinator.
The FSFE says that too many public procurement procedures contain mistakes. The advocacy group recently "skimmed" over three hundred procurement notices, and found clear violations of procurement law in fourteen (almost five per cent). "Public administrations are not aware of the rules, or don't care enough about them", concludes Kekäläinen.
The group's campaign is supported by several open source IT service providers. In case a public institution continues to flout the rules, these companies will take them to court, with the FSFE as their legal representative.
The FSFE will contact all public authorities to request fixing of the procurement errors.
- OFE PROCUREMENT MONITORING REPORT 2012 1st Snapshot Jul 27, 2012
For the past three years, OpenForum Europe (OFE) has published a report on the European Union (EU) Member States' practice of referring to specific trademarks when procuring for computer software packages and information systems.
As determined by Art. 23(8) of Directive 2004/18/EC, which consolidates the European Court of Justice's (ECJ) jurisprudence on the matter1, “technical specifications shall not refer to a specific make or source, or a particular process, or to trademarks, patents, types or a specific origin or production with the effect of favouring or eliminating certain undertakings or certain products”. According to the law, such references can only be made if justified by the subject-matter of the contract and always accompanied by the expression “or equivalent”.
The latest monitoring exercise examined 585 invitations to tender by Contracting Authorities (CA) procuring for computer software products during the three months from March 1st to May 31st 2012. It found that almost 1 in 5 notices included technical specifications with explicit references to trademarks.
These findings led us to conclude that engaging in a more comprehensive and global analysis of the EU's procurement market would show that the use of discriminatory technical specifications is a widespread practice within the EU.
In light of these results, the current revision of the EU Public Procurement Directives and the forthcoming draft of Guidelines for Procurement of ICT Products should take into account discriminatory practices persisting in the procurement market and to which the current legal framework contributes to. Such practices are not only against the principles of competition and the fulfilment of the Single Market, but are also an obstacle to SMEs willing to compete in a market that should be open, innovative and transparent.
1Cf., Cases C-359/93 Commission of the European Communities v. Kingdom of the Netherlands (UNIX)  ECR I-157 and C-59/00 Bent Mousten Vestergaard v. Spøttrup Boligselskab  ECR I-9505.
- Cabinet Office pilots sales website for small IT suppliers Jun 27, 2012
The Register - The Cabinet Office is piloting a website intended to be an "interactive forum" to help small businesses communicate with government and find out about ways to sell to the public sector.
Known as Solutions Exchange, the website has been divided into two sections. The first, 'challenges', focuses on emerging opportunities to work with government which have not yet reached a formal procurement stage.
Current 'challenges' include how suppliers could help the Identity and Passport Service to improve its use of facial images in its passport records to detect fraud. Another is helping the Cabinet Office to make better use of the data it collects on its Contracts Finder website.
The second section is titled themes and invites suppliers to forward proposals for innovative or cost savings systems to help government. Ideas about connecting data from different departments to give government a better insight and inform services delivery are among those being sought.
Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, said: "Solutions Exchange offers an easy, informal ways for smaller firms to find out about emerging opportunities and pitch ideas.
"For government, it's a new way to find out what the market has to offer in advance so that we can speed up formal procurement times."
- FSFE to Advance Fair Public IT Procurements in Finland Jun 27, 2012
FSFE - The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has started an initiative to advance fair public procurements in Finland. The initiative concentrates on IT related procurement notices that require brand instead of defining functionalities required by the procurer. To date FSFE has skimmed over 300 procurement notices, and of those taken into closer analysis, 14 have been found to clearly violate the Finnish procurement law. These violating notices explicitly asked for tenders of specific brands of software manufacturers or products and thus discriminate all other brands and manufacturers, effectively stopping free competition.
- Government values end user device framework at £175m Jun 07, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - The government has revealed that it expects its end user device framework, which forms a core part of its CIO ICT Strategy, to cost the public sector up to £175 million.
A prior information notice states that the government is looking for guidance and is “keen to understand the current and future market for desktop services, including commercial options to deliver best value and technological approaches suitable to government needs along with, scalability for government.”
- UK Government Reissues G-Cloud Framework to Attract New Suppliers and Services May 28, 2012
Web Host Industry Review - The UK government announced this week it has officially opened up the second round of procurement for the G-Cloud with a framework in an effort to draw in new suppliers and services.
Earlier this month, representatives of the G-Cloud said it expects Amazon and Salesforce to be among the many to join the framework. The UK government launched the beta phase of its online storefront CloudStore in February, which currently features 257 suppliers offering about 1,700 services, with over 50 percent of these suppliers being SMEs.
The team launched this second G-Cloud framework to continuously reissue the G-Cloud framework to keep up with innovations in technology and provide the newest as-a-service products to the public sector.
- CloudStore 2.0 - not quite there yet? May 21, 2012
businessCLOUD9 - The second iteration of the Government’s CloudStore went live on Friday, but not everyone's entirely looking at it as the improved version the Cabinet Office reckons it is.The Cabinet Office says this version is better to version 1, launched in February, because it has:
It also says this iteration was built on the Government eMarketplace, “a practical and efficient way of using existing technology” – though as noted, it remains its “intention” to consider using Open Source in future iterations.
- better functionality when it comes to searching, to comparing services and prices, and it has the ability to now purchase directly through the store if buyers are registered with the Government e-Marketplace
- better for suppliers as "payments will be quicker and easier"
- profiles can be edited more quickly and comparisons will lead to "a fairer marketplace".
- Government reneges on open source promise for Cloudstore 2.0 May 21, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - The UK government has finally unveiled the second iteration of its Cloudstore after a number of delays, and has reneged on its pledge to make version 2.0 open source.
Cloudstore is an online catalogue that the public sector can use to procure cloud services provided by suppliers signed up to the G-Cloud framework. The first version of the Cloudstore was unveiled in February.
Computerworld UK spoke to former G-Cloud director Chris Chant shortly after the first release. Chant, at the time, was also overseeing the second iteration. He stated during his interview that Cloudstore 2.0 would be go live in April and it would be built using opensource code.
- Government caps most IT projects at £100m Apr 03, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - The government has delivered a procurement policy notice (PPN) to all departments and agencies mandating that future IT projects are capped at £100 million.
In 2011, the government said projects of over £100 million would be monitored closely by the Major Projects Authority, but the cap will now prevent any projects of that size unless a strong case is given.
Forming part of its wider ICT Strategy, the government is attempting to move away from its traditional approach to procurement where large vendors are given expensive, lengthy IT contracts, and deliver projects that use multiple SMEs over a shorter period.
- Oracle deal promises £75m in savings for government Mar 30, 2012
ZDNet - The Cabinet Office has signed a new contract with Oracle, one of the government's largest IT suppliers, which it says will generate savings of more than £75m by 2015.
- IT contracts to be capped in fresh push to make public sector SME friendlyThe Guardian Mar 12, 2012
The Guardian - The government is to introduce a limit to the length of IT contracts, starting with application software and hosting IT deals.
The move, announced by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, is part of a range of measures aimed at making public procurement more accessible to SME suppliers.
From now on, hosting deals will be limited to 12 month durations, while application development deals will be reassessed every four months.
It is also introducing break point into IT contracts, so "less money is locked into the large, lengthy contracts that are actually the bane of our lives in a whole lot of areas of government, making it more difficult to drive value", Maude said.
The government is looking to disaggregate contracts across IT in favour of smaller and more flexible deals.
- Breaking Down Procurement Barriers For Smaller Business Suppliers Feb 24, 2012
The Information Daily (formally eGOV) - Finance Minister, Jane Hutt, has announced a change to Welsh public procurement policy making it easier for smaller, local businesses to get through pre-qualification to bid for public sector contracts.
Announcing the final release of the Supplier Qualification Information Database or “SQuID”, the Finance Minister explained how this approach was developed by the Value Wales division of the Welsh Government in conjunction with the Welsh public sector.
- Public procurement in EU: Commission invites experts to take part in policy-shaping and implementation. Feb 22, 2012
OFE - The Commission will be active in the field of public procurement this year. In this context, the European Commission has issued a call for applications to participate in a new stakeholder expert group on public procurement. The group will bring together a variety of experts with first hand experience in the field of public procurement including, for example, legal and economic analysis of public procurement, e-procurement,environmental and social aspects of procurement, concessions, relations between contracting authorities or Public Private Partnerships. The group will provide the Commission with high-quality expertise and practical insight with a view to assisting it in shaping and implementing the public procurement policy of the European Union. The Commission invites qualified experts to apply for membership of the group (deadline for application is 05.03.2012).
COMMISSION DECISION of 3 September 2011 - setting up a Commission stakeholder expert group on public procurement and replacing Decision 87/305/EEC setting up an advisory committee on the opening-up of public procurement - (Text with EEA relevance) (2011/C 291/02)
- OpenForum Europe finds trademark references in IT procurements widespread, break rules Feb 17, 2012
OpenSource.com - Report: 'Contracting authorities must take exit costs into account'
Public administrations that are procuring IT services and software must add to the budget plan the exit costs needed to move to alternative IT solutions after the end of the contract period. That is one of the recommendations by Open Forum Europe, an organisation advocating the use of open standards in ICT, in a report on procurement published this Monday.
By not taking into account these exit costs, public administrations "allow inefficient suppliers to remain in the market", the lobby group writes in its 'Monitoring Report on the European IT procurement market.
OFE: "It may persuade contracting authorities to apply exceptional awarding procedures to extend existing contracts, instead of inviting other economic operators to bid. As derogations of the principles of competition, these procedures should only be applicable under exceptional circumstances."
The group also recommends that European procurement rules take into account discriminatory practices that happen in the procurement market. "The EU decision-makers have to take a series of measures to open up public procurement to all economic operators, including small and medium-sized enterprises, by removing artificial obstacles and improving procedures and encouraging the widest possible participation. By ensuring that procurement policies and processes do not discriminate against certain types of business models or suppliers, the existing barriers to entry will be reduced."
- More SMEs for government suppliers: Liam Maxwell's three-step plan Feb 16, 2012
The Guardian - The idea of getting more SMEs into the government's roster of suppliers ranks somewhere alongside kittens and rainbows in terms of popularity. But it's easier said than done – central government IT continues to be dominated by the usual suspects.
Liam Maxwell, the government's director of ICT futures, is the man charged with getting the public sector to use more small suppliers.
But with the spectre of 'doing more with less' haunting many government departments, can IT minnows really deliver the economies of scale that the stretched public sector needs?
Maxwell thinks so. The idea that SMEs can't deliver the required savings is "fundamentally not correct," he told Guardian Government Computing at the recent Cloud Expo in London. "You do business with SMEs, you get a better deal."
- Public Sector ICT: Cross Party MPs Insist Government Should Become An "Intelligent Customer" In New Report Feb 01, 2012
eGov monitor - The Commons Public Administration Select Committee has published a report on Information Technology in government. The report asserts that the government still has to recognise the challenges of “intelligent” procurement.
They argue for an overhaul of the procurement process, to break the hold of large suppliers with the implementation of benchmarking costs across departments.
PASC have applauded the government’s response to their previous report on the same matter, calling the reaction constructive. However this new report points out several areas where government action will simply not be good enough to address "the scale of behavioural and process change required across government".
PASC has also noted that the government has not responded to the reports accusation that the large systems integrators operate like a cartel. The report also highlighted the lack of accurate information that has made it impossible for the government to penetrate the “cartel’s” price curtain. PASC pointed out that this has crippled the government’s ability to spot potential over-charging, and subsequent waste of taxpayer’s money. It argued for an independent investigation into the sector, and for the government to seek out a reliable benchmarking system.
- Maxwell: Under G-Cloud, gov will buy IT 'like stationery' Jan 30, 2012
The Register - The G-Cloud will usher in an era of public ICT contracts that are measured in months, rather than years, according to Liam Maxwell, the Cabinet Office's director of ICT futures.
The G-Cloud could see government procurement move away from its traditional model, whereby contracts are signed for periods of several years and then extended.
"I don't think we'll be seeing many contracts in the cloud services are that are beyond 12 months," he told the Cloud Expo conference in London.
"That's a massive step change," he added.
In the future, Maxwell predicts that core services will be purchased in the same way as common office supplies are today.
- ICT procurement consultation Jan 16, 2012
As you may be aware, the European Commission (DG Information Society) has launched a study to develop guidelines to help public authorities to procure ICT products that are based on standards. Background to the study can be found here: Background to work. Many thanks if you have already contributed to the work.
Draft guidelines have now been prepared and Europe Economics, on behalf of the European Commission, is seeking views on how useful these guidelines might be, as well as views on practical implementation measures.
A short survey is available here Survey link. Your assistance in filling it in is greatly appreciated. Please see the attached letter of support from the Commission for more detail: Letter of support.
Please note that the survey will close on 14th February 2012. If you require any assistance in answering it please contact Deborah Kelly or Saattvic on +442078314717 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your responses will remain completely confidential.
- Cabinet Office extends G Cloud deadline Dec 09, 2011
The Guardian - The Cabinet Office has extended the deadline for suppliers to apply to join its G Cloud framework by three weeks to 19 December.
It said that it has received 532 expressions of interest to its invitation to tender, which was published in October, but wants to give even more companies an opportunity to apply.
The £60m framework, which aims to provide government departments with 'pay as you go' IT services, has been designed to be accessible to SMEs, according to the Cabinet Office.
It claims that less stringent evidence of financial history is required from the SMEs that apply, there is no lengthy pre-qualification questionnaire, and suppliers are asked what they can offer, rather than government providing a "complicated specification that stifles innovation".
Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, said this was an example of government changing procurement. "We are asking suppliers what they can offer and setting out our requirements in the simplest way possible," he said.
- The Crown and suppliers: a new way of working Nov 25, 2011
Cabinet Office - The Crown and suppliers: a new way of working' event was held on 21 November 2011 in London.
- Francis Maude is unashamedly obsessed with procurement but what's in it for suppliers? Nov 23, 2011
I know this doesn't sound exciting but I know for a fact that Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office, has a different view. "I really mean it about being passionate about procurement," said Maude. "We have not got it right for quite some time."
Since the coalition government came to power Maude has been on a mission to cut government costs. IT is a prime target with billions spent on it every year.
The gist of it is that if the government can improve the process of buying IT, for example making it cheaper and quicker, millions can be saved without reducing the end product that IT promises.
But to do this Maude believes the government's procurement teams and the suppliers should talk more. This is why this conference was held and Maude promised it was not a one-off and that there would be more.
Here are some of the points I thought were interesting:
- Radical package unveiled to support business and promote growth Nov 21, 2011
Cabinet Office - The way the Government does business is about to change radically, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, will announce on Monday.
The Cabinet Office will unveil a package of measures that will revolutionise how the Government buys from the private sector, including:
- publishing £50bn of potential business online
- making it 40 percent faster to do business with government
- collaborating with businesses at a much earlier stage in the procurement process so they don’t find themselves excluded from opportunities.
- Government issues invitation to tender for free software support Nov 18, 2011
Bristol Wireless - Yes, you did read the headline correctly.
However, the government in question is not Her Majesty’s but that of la belle France, which has just issued an invitation to tender for free and open source software support to the amount of €2 million, according to Le Monde Informatique.
The Information Systems and Communication Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior, Territorial Authorities and Immigration has just published an invitation to tender to find a contractor to provide support for the free and open source software used by the State. The public contract will be a framework contract covering three years, with a possible 1 year extension.
Bids must be submitted by 9th January 2012, with the announcement of the award being planned for 30th March 2012.
The scope of the contract covers some 10 fields:
- Still Crippled By "Free" Nov 16, 2011
ComputerWorldUK - Simon Phipps - Open source procurement by the government is still hobbled by a fixation on getting licenses for free instead of recognising the value of protecting procurement liberties.
The recent release of the Open Source Procurement Toolkit by the Cabinet Office has been interesting and encouraging, even if it did stir in me a certain scepticism that things will be different this time round. Under both Labour and Conservative administrations, the Cabinet Office has been tasked with increasing the adoption of open source by government departments, and each time a fine statement has been made that has resulted in very little change.
- Dipping Into the UK Government's Open Source Procurement Toolkit Nov 04, 2011
CompterWorldUK - Glyn Moody - The UK Government has published what it calls its "Open Source Procurement Toolkit". It's a sad reflection of how long the open source in government non-story has been going on that at the top of the home page for those documents you find: "The Government first set out its policy on the use of open source in 2004. This was restated in both 2009 and 2010." And still nothing has happened....
However, trying to look on the bright side, let's welcome the documents offered here - not least because they come in two versions: as PDFs and - drumroll - as ODFs. That might seem a small thing, but that alone shows that somebody gets it - that open source in government isn't just about talking, but about doing. Making document files routinely available in ODF format is an excellent example - so kudos for that, at least.
The first is entitled "All About Open Source." Now, obviously, anyone reading this column probably knows a fair deal about the subject, but this document still has considerable value, in two ways.
- Exploring The Strategic Implementation Plan for the government ICT strategy Nov 04, 2011
eGov - Intellect's Director for Public Sector explores the new ICT strategy implementation plan and concludes this is a road map that could truly transform and improve public service delivery.
- Cabinet Office publishes open source procurement toolkit Nov 03, 2011
The Guardian - Department hopes to dispel myths around open source with new online toolkit.
The Cabinet Office has published an open source procurement toolkit for the public sector on its website.
It said the purpose is to ensure that there is a level playing field for open source and proprietary software and that some of the myths associated with open source are dispelled.
The toolkit includes six documents: All About Open Source – including FAQs; ICT Advice Note - Procurement of Open Source; Procurement Policy Note on Open Source; OSS Options; CESG Guidance on Open Source (this site will only open for users who have previously registered with a .gsi.gov.uk email address); and Total Cost of Ownership.
The options document contains details of different IT functions such as servers, databases, application development, networks and business applications.
- Whitehall to aim for half of ICT spend on cloud Oct 24, 2011
The Guardian - Strategy implementation plan includes targets for cloud computing, the use of agile techniques and spending on the Public Service Network.
Cloud computing should account for half of central government's new ICT spending by the end of 2015, according to a new strategy document published by the Cabinet Office.
Other long term goals include the opening of the Government Application Store by the end of next year, the implementation of a strategy for end user devices by January 2013, the use of agile techniques in half of ICT programmes by April 2013 and 80% of government telecommunications to be spent on systems compliant with the Public Service Network (PSN) by March 2014.
The ambitions are outlined in the Government ICT Strategy - Strategic Implementation Plan, which provides the detail to follow up the wider strategy document that was published in March of this year.
- UK gov publishes IT action plan to back up previous IT plan Oct 21, 2011
The Register - The Cabinet Office has published an action plan that details deadlines for when it hopes to implement the IT strategy it announced in March this year.
By the end of this month Francis Maude's department will release strategies for "End User Devices, Cloud, ICT Capability, and Greening Government ICT".
The minister said that the Cabinet Office could make a saving of more than £1bn by 2015 – with the help of suppliers and central government departments – if the deadlines are achieved.
- Portugal opening up public sector IT contracts Oct 20, 2011
PublicService Europe - Paul Meller OFE - For too long, large contractors have dominated the public sector IT landscape – things could be about change
As Portugal puts the final touches to a set of rules designed to help its public sector break free from IT vendor lock-in, Openforum Europe congratulates the Portuguese government for shaping one of the most enlightened laws of its kind in Europe. An Open Standards Law adopted with cross-party support, in April, requires an accompanying regulation and a list of approved rules to take practical effect. These texts are currently the subject of a public consultation.
Once finalised, this legal framework will help ensure that ministries and public agencies in Portugal always select IT systems built on open standards. Like many countries in Europe, Portugal's public sector has remained largely locked into expensive, proprietary computer systems until now. The only way to ensure that the country's public sector gets the best value for money from its computer systems is by insisting that suppliers adhere to open standards. That way - they will be able to choose from the widest selection of suppliers, including ones that build systems around open source and free software infrastructures.
- European Commission buys Microsoft for 20 years without competition Sep 20, 2011
Computer Weekly - The European Commission has been buying Microsoft software since 1993 without an open and public competition to assess alternative products, according to documents released to Computer Weekly.
As a result of striking its sixth successive uncontested deal with Microsoft in May this year, the Commission has ensured Microsoft will have dominated the desktop computing environment of European institutions for 20 years without allowing a single rival to compete for the business.
Documents released to Computer Weekly will raise questions about a procurement regime that allows a sole supplier to reign unchallenged for so long using legal exceptions meant only for extraordinary circumstances.
- UK Government Breaks Promise To Use SMEs Sep 16, 2011
eWeek - Despite promising to end the IT oligopoly of big businesses, government is ignoring SMEs
The UK government is doing less business with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) than a few months ago, despite promises by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude earlier this year to end the oligopoly of big business supplying government IT and open up the market to new providers.
At the first meeting of the ‘New Suppliers to Government’ working group, put together by the Cabinet Office, members highlighted that the government’s aspiration to place 25 percent of all its business with SMEs is in direct conflict with projects such as Sir Philip Green’s ‘Efficiency Review’, which pushes for consolidation within the supply chain.
“There are two competing tensions inside the government,” said Mark Taylor, CEO of Sirius and lead for the New Suppliers to Government working group. “One of them is the Cabinet Office’s stated commitment to getting more SME involvement. However, the other drive within government is pushing things the other way.”
- Scotland seeks £100m IT hardware deal Aug 28, 2011
The Register - Scottish Procurement has published a tender for IT hardware and associated services, worth between £80m and £100m.
According to a notice published in the Official Journal of the European Union, the deal will be divided into the following five lots: PCs, workstations, netbooks, laptops and thin client technology.
The notice says that the contract will be used by a number of public sector organisations including: central and local government; Scottish non-departmental public bodies; police and fire authorities; health boards; and higher education institutions. The contract is for 18 months, with an extension option of up to two years.
- Public Sector procurement: SMEs to the rescue Aug 24, 2011
Public Sevice - Cuts in public sector expenditure have certainly led to increased scrutiny of how the government spends public money. A recent report by the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) on the government's IT expenditure emphasised that SMEs could potentially save the government millions of pounds in ITC projects by undertaking projects faster, more efficiently and with lower overhead costs.
The report suggested that the over-reliance of a 'cartel' of large IT firms had resulted in successive governments wasting a massive amount of public money on IT procurement – with some departments spending an average of £3,500 on a single desktop PC. It also found that the government did not have an acceptable level of knowledge of its own IT systems, because the crucial information & expertise had been passed on to the outsourcing suppliers.
- Cabinet Office shuns open-source in IT-tracking deal Aug 23, 2011
The Register - The Cabinet Office and its IT underlings have exhaustively championed the need for more OSS across government since the ConDem Coalition was cobbled together in May 2010. Nonetheless Francis Maude's department has just snubbed open source players by awarding a contract to a proprietary software provider to help establish how much money the government spends on technology.
Readers need only cast their minds back to a damning report published by the public administration select committee (PASC) last month that lambasted over-reliance on big IT firms in Whitehall over many years.
The cross-party group of MPs, whose committee is chaired by Tory politico Bernard Jenkin, labelled the IT-buying culture in central government as an "obscene" waste of taxpayer money.
- Time to walk the talk? – New Study on procurement practice in Sweden regarding open standards and document formats Aug 22, 2011
A very good and in depth study was recently launched on procurement practice in Sweden. It is worth reading – freely available on the ePractice web site.The study to some extend focusses on the use of open standards and on document formats. This is done against the background that, as Commissioner Vice-President Neelie Kroes had expressed earlier,“No citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to use a particular company’s technology to access government information.” (Neelie Kroes, 2008). Being Open About Standards. Brussels, June 10, SPEECH/08/317).
- NHS database: Digital disaster Aug 04, 2011
The Guardian - The figures speak for themselves. This week's public accounts committee (PAC) report on the NHS national computer system uses moderate language, but ought to cause outrage. It underlines the calamity of a project that was supposed to transform patient care in England but which has instead achieved little except enrich IT consultants and waste billions.
The scheme was launched in 2002, with a budget of £11.4bn, of which £6.4bn has already been spent. "The possibilities are enormous if we can get this right," Tony Blair promised at the start, overlooking the possibility of getting it wrong. The aim was to replace paper medical records with a centralised national electronic database, allowing a patient from Hull to walk into a hospital in Hereford and find all their details ready at the click of a mouse.
It never happened. The scheme quickly degraded into a mass of regional and incompatible systems, provided by two companies, BT and Computer Sciences Corporation, who have been paid about £1.8bn. Neither has been able to deliver even the reduced capability specified in their contracts. BT is being paid £9m to install systems at each NHS site, although other parts of the NHS outside the national programme are paying the same company only £2m for the same systems. For once the cliche is true. The PAC report really is a catalogue of disaster.
- Waste that the country can no longer afford Aug 03, 2011
The Register - The NHS IT scheme will be remembered as one of the great public procurement disasters of all time. The cost has been staggering. Some £6.4bn has been spent. The original 2007 deadline for the completion of the vast project was missed. And now the Government is expected to call a halt to the entire project. Instead of a national database of patients' records, as originally envisaged by the previous Labour government in 2002, we will have a patchwork of incompatible systems.
The House of Commons Public Affairs Committee argues in its new report into the fiasco today that the Department of Health should have consulted more extensively with health professionals before embarking on the project. That is certainly true. Many doctors still do not understand why this new system is being pushed on them. But this has to be seen in a larger context. For this is merely the most expensive in a long line of public-sector IT failures. From the Rural Payments Agency, to the National Offender Management Information System, just about every ambitious IT system inaugurated over the past decade-and- a-half has gone wrong.
- IT giants 'ripping off Whitehall', say MPs Jul 28, 2011
BBC - Government departments have been ripped off by a "cartel" of big IT firms, a damning report by a committee of MPs has found.
Some were paying as much as 10 times the commercial rate for equipment and up to £3,500 for a single desktop PC.
The public administration committee said an "obscene amount of public money" was being wasted on IT.
The government said it was already making "significant improvements" to the way it bought computer equipment.
- NHS told: freeze all Microsoft spend Jul 11, 2011
The Register - The Cabinet Office is halting all but emergency purchases of Microsoft software in the NHS as it negotiates a pan-government procurement deal with the software giant.
The Crown Representative, headed by former Micro Focus CEO Stephen Kelly – appointed by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude in April – is leading talks with 20 of the largest suppliers to the public sector, including HP and IBM.
Efforts to cut a deal with Microsoft are happening now, Kelly confirmed in letters sent to NHS Trusts mid-June, leaked to The Register by sources.
- New company to lead UK police ICT procurement Jul 07, 2011
The Register - A police ICT company, led by police chiefs and staffed by technology professionals, will be set up in spring 2012 to manage some of the £1.2bn the service currently spends on ICT each year, home secretary Theresa May has announced.
In a speech to the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), May said the police must have a controlling interest in the new company. "Police need to be at the heart of defining what systems and services they need," she said.
- Licensing focus in govt open source guide Jul 04, 2011
ZDNet - The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has released the final "Guide to Open Source Software" for government agencies, which includes its new open source procurement principles.
The office had released a short policy document in January, which said that Australian Government ICT procurement processes must actively and fairly consider all types of available software, including open source. The policy also recommended that clauses be used in checklists and requests for tender, to ensure that alternative software possibilities are considered.
- Single Market Act: EU public procurement framework has saved around 20 billions euros Jun 27, 2011
Europa - Budgetary constraints mean that efficient public purchasing is moving up the policy agenda in all Member States. In order to ensure the efficient use of public money, reforms to existing rules should create more flexible and user-friendly tools to reduce costs and the duration of contracting procedures. That is why reform of public procurement legislation is one of the 12 priority actions articulated in the Single Market Act, which was adopted in April 2011
- Government looks to extend £800m savings on IT to rest of public sector Jun 21, 2011
The Guardian - The government says it has saved £800m in IT costs over the past financial year by persuading its biggest suppliers to cut their charges and scrapping contracts. But how effective has the programme really been?
Last December, the Cabinet Office announced a "new approach" to suppliers and now says it is sharing this new approach with other public bodies to help them get a better deal from suppliers at a time of deep spending cuts.
The savings in central government's IT procurement between April 2010 and March 2011 came from supplier rebates, suppliers reducing their profit margins, "de-scoping" contracts (reducing their goals or simplifying), and cancelling contracts or parts of contracts, according to the Cabinet Office.
- Open source vendors unfairly excluded from government contracts Jun 09, 2011
Computing - European public sector IT contracts are unfairly favouring large suppliers such as Microsoft by ignoring the rules governing the use of trademarks in tender requests, according to a new report.
Campaign group OpenForum Europe has analysed more than 400 IT-related tender notices posted to the Official Journal of the EU between February and March 2010.
It found that more than one in 10 notices included the use of trademarks within the technical specifications, thereby restricting the firms that could bid for the work.
Where tenders were found to include trademarks, the overwhelming majority mentioned ones belonging to Microsoft.
Bertrand Diard, chief executive of open-source data management vendor Talend, called on the UK government to enforce best practice and to encourage fair competition for UK public sector contracts.
- Open standards are a closed book to ICT procurement across Europe Jun 08, 2011
UKauthorITy - Ambitions to open up ICT procurement to open standards and open source products face an uphill struggle according to new resarch. According to Open Forum Europe, 13% IT tenders illegally specify trademarks when they solicit bids from the private sector.
According to the forum's Procurement Report 2010, its latest annual assessment of procurement practice across the European Union. the "discriminatory practice" of specifying trademarks is rampant.
"The abuse of the tendering process... is just the tip of the iceberg," said Bob Blatchford, chief operating officer of Openforum Europe. "We focused on illegal specification of trademarks but there are many other possible abuses going on that distort the IT procurement process in Europe. In future monitoring reports we will go into greater detail, looking at a broader sample of tenders, focusing on a wider range of abuses," he said.
- Government pledges to halt procurement 'madness' Jun 06, 2011
ZDNet - The government will set up a centralised procurement team in an effort to stop paying wildly different prices for IT products, according to the Cabinet Office.
The centralised team, called Government Procurement, will contract for goods and services for the whole of government, rather than individual departments.
Government agencies and departments have been paying between £350 and £2,000 for the same laptop, and between £85 and £240 for the same printer cartridge from the same supplier, the Cabinet Office said in a statement on Friday.
"It is bonkers for different parts of government to be paying vastly different prices for exactly the same goods," Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said in the statement. "We are putting a stop to this madness which has been presided over for too long."
- EU goes global for procurement standards Jun 06, 2011
ZDNet - Public-sector procurement documents in the European Union will now be able to reference international IT standards, under new regulations being proposed by the European Commission.
On Wednesday, the Commission laid out its strategy for reforming the way EU public institutions deal with standards. Open-source advocates welcomed the strategy, saying it would promote competition, reduce lock-in and lead to faster standard development.
More stories on this topic:
- Gov 'skunkworks' to develop e-petitions system Jun 03, 2011
The Register - The government "skunkworks" team is aiming to develop an e-petitions system over the next few weeks as the first of its initial round projects.
Mark O'Neill, leader of the informal team of IT developers based in the Cabinet Office, said the government has made this a priority and it is aiming to deliver the system by mid-July. This reflects the brief of the skunkworks to develop low-cost IT applications and advise on the procurement of large projects.
- Many EU IT tenders break procurement laws Jun 02, 2011
The H Open - Government agencies are "consistently breaking competition laws" when procuring IT products from the private sector by specifying required brands and trademarks which has removed competition from the tendering process, according to Openforum Europe's recently published Procurement Report 2010. The report found that of the tender notices studied, 13 per cent made reference to trademarks or brands.
An example of this behaviour occurred in Switzerland in 2009: open source vendors took legal action against the requirement of a local government authority for Microsoft products. Although the vendors had some initial success, the open source vendors eventually lost their case.
- Gov't IT procurement tenders 'consistently breaking competition laws' Jun 01, 2011
Purcon - Employees in government procurement jobs are consistently breaking the law by specifying brands when tendering IT contracts, a new report claims.
The Openforum Europe annual assessment of procurement practice found that 13 per cent of a sample of tenders made specific reference to brands or trademarks.
This is in direct conflict with the requirement to open up tenders to competitors, who can then bid for contracts.
The report found that some governments are restricting their tender to one preferred supplier without any reference to competitors.
Bob Blatchford, chief operating officer at Openforum Europe suggests that evidence of this trend is "just the tip of the iceberg".
- Government told to focus more on efficiency, less on IT May 19, 2011
ComputerWorldUK - The government needs to do more than just renegotiate cheaper contracts with suppliers to achieve significant IT savings, according to industry experts at yesterday’s Westminster eForum.
Using open source technology, selling to operational leaders without an emphasis on technology and making changes incrementally were all suggestions made by panellists at the seminar in London, which included representatives from BT and Microsoft.
- Letting in the SMEs May 04, 2011
The Guardian - Although around 80% of public sector IT is currently provided by about 20 large suppliers, the government has an objective of placing 25% of external expenditure with small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) over the next few years. To this end, in February it appointed Stephen Allott as the crown representative to build a strategic dialogue with smaller suppliers.
Its an ambitious goal given the need for public authorities to comply with EU legislation on procurement and deal with widespread cutbacks in IT investment. Also, even though the Cabinet Office is keen to see procurement broken down into smaller chunks to encourage SMEs, the sheer cost of tendering even for modest projects precludes many from doing so.
Despite this, there are still simple things that public authorities can do to increase the representation of SMEs in contracts, as a Sheffield city council initiative demonstrates.
- EU to launch tender notice for Open Data Portal Apr 27, 2011
FutureGov Asia - In the coming weeks, IT companies will be able to access the European Union’s tender notice which seeks to create an EU-wide online portal to allow greater access to government information and services.
According to Carl-Christian Buhr, an advisor to Neelie Kroes, the EU’s digital agenda commissioner, the aim of the project is to change how European citizens interact with the government on a range of levels to make government data, statistics and other figures, more easily accessible.
“It would ideally combine the portal of the European institutions and Europe as a whole, a portal that really links up all that is available at a local and national level” Buhr said in a report published by Deutsche Welle.
- What happens to our £220bn annual procurement spend? Apr 18, 2011
The Guardian - Any business needs to know where its money goes. This is especially so if it is spending £220bn a year – the equivalent of £3500 per adult and child in the UK – purchasing goods and services on our behalf. That is nearly 20% of our gross domestic product.
The need for decent data on how it is spent and with whom has been highlighted in several reports including a National Audit Office report last May, Sir Philip Green's report last September and my own, Towards Tesco, published by the Institute of Directors.
Extracting the data on public sector procurement spend from the thousands of diverse finance systems in the public sector makes presenting a coherent and complete picture more complicated than it should be. However, it doesn't lessen the need and there are ways of doing it.
- MEPs want Commission to disclose details of proprietary software deal Apr 07, 2011
OSOR - Four Members of the European Parliament today asked the European Commission to disclose the details on the awarding of a contract for proprietary software licences for the operating system of its 36.000 desktop computers. The MEPs say that the Commission's contract procedure is excluding all software vendors but one.
With their questions, the MEPs Bart Staes, Indrek Tarand, Eva Lichtenberger and Heide Rühle (Greens/European Free Alliance), respond to a decision taken by the Commission in December to update to the latest version of Microsoft's Windows desktop PC operating system.
The MEPs point out that the software deal is contradicting statements made earlier by the European Commission that public administrations should not rely on a single vendor and that this is a waste of public money.
- EU Bodies Plan Upgrade to Windows 7 Without Public Tender Mar 25, 2011
PCW - The European Commission has been accused of favoritism in handing out its IT contracts as it looks set to move internal IT systems to Microsoft Windows 7 without holding a public tender.
At a secret meeting last December, Commission civil servants agreed in principle to upgrade more than 36,000 desktop computers in European institutions to Windows 7 without holding a public tender. The proposed move could tie the Commission to Microsoft for the next four to five years, flying in the face of the Commission's own advice to avoid public procurement lock-in.
Many supporters of open standards, have been outraged by the Commission's action. "Europe is in danger of rapidly becoming a laggard in this march towards open and fully interoperable computer systems. While some national and regional governments from around Europe have made impressive moves in the right direction, the European Commission remains wedded to a single, closed operating system and shows no signs of even considering an open alternative," said Paul Meller, spokesman for Open Forum Europe.
- Google Apps for Government seeing UK interest Mar 21, 2011
Computing - Google has said it is seeing tremendous interest from the UK government in its web-based Google Apps because of the focus on cost cutting in the public sector.
- UK: Opponents of open source criticise new procurement rules Mar 10, 2011
OSOR - The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is protesting the UK government's new policy on open standards. The lobby organisation for proprietary software companies says the new policy will reduce choice and increase costs.
According to a report by Zdnet, the BSA is concerned that a new government definition of an open standard will force proprietary vendors to give up intellectual property. Instead, the lobby group wants the UK government to "align itself with the best practices endorsed by the European Interoperability Framework (EIF)", Zdnet quotes BSA.
- Cabinet Office pushes suppliers on open source Feb 28, 2011
Guardian - The government's deputy chief information officer has told suppliers that it wants to open source technology to feature in its ICT strategy.
- The Digital Agenda Stakeholder Community on Procurement, IT & Standards is now launched! Feb 08, 2011
The community grew out of the Digital Agenda Stakeholder Day on 25 October 2010 and will be facilitated by representatives from several organizations around Europe as well as individual participants. Until the community gets fully up and running, OpenForumEurope's Open Procurement Task Force, will take the lead.
A key goal is to present advice to the European Commission at the EU's Digital Assembly on 16-17 June 2011 stemming from our various experiences with public procurement, as public procurers, bidders, policy makers, consultants, end users or otherwise as stakeholders in this crucial process.
Please free to Join the epractise community, Post to the blog, Share a resource, Invite others to join, browse the ePractice portal for News or Cases to highlight for this community, and most important of all, contribute to the best practice (and possibly bad practice) we will be presenting to the Commission in June 2011. Remember that you have to be logged in to have access to the full range of the Standards, IT & Procurement community's resources.
- UK Government opens up contracts to small business Feb 23, 2011
Cabinet Office - A radical package of measures to open up the way that Government does business and to make sure that small companies, charities and voluntary organisations are in the best possible position to compete for billions of pounds worth of contracts has been outlined by the Prime Minister today.
- EU Calls for Consultation on the Green Paper on expanding the use of e-Procurement Jan 25, 2011
The Green paper invites comments on how the EU can help Member States to:
- fully exploit e-procurement’s potential to simplify and improve public purchasing;
- accelerate the switch-over by providing the right mix of legislative incentives and tools;
- allow operators from other Member States to participate in on-line procurement procedures.
- EU procurement rules unpopular in UK Jan 25, 2011
European Union (EU) procurement rules have been costly and burdensome, according to the majority of respondents to a poll of council officers.
States - December 2009
OFE's annual public procurement monitoring of notices for computer software published on Tenders Electronic Daily results point that non-discrimination on public procurement processes has barely improved from 2008 exercise. 171 contact notices were scanned for trademarks in the period from February 1 to April 30, 2009. OFE's monitoring exercise shows that in 37 tender notices out of 171 (21.6 percent, against 25 percent on 2008 exercise), trademarks were mentioned in procurement documents. In 22 cases (12.8 percent), tender notices mentioned Microsoft or one of Microsoft’s products.
On this basis, it would seem that the use of trademarks in public procurement in the EU member states is still widespread - almost a common practice. Clearly, the use of trademarks discriminates against other suppliers/contractors and is either directly prohibited by EU legislation or allowed only under very strict conditions. We invite the EU as well as the concerned Contracting Authorities (CA) to address non-compliance in the cases identified in this report. ...Read Report
It is a key tool to:
Ensure Accountable and transparent use of public funds
Deliver best value
Minimise regulatory compliance liabilities
Avoid discriminatory terms and conditions
Lower barrier to entry for SMEs