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Ottawa blinks in procurement reform

IT association says new tender process has been put 'on hold' until September, an interpretation Public Works denies

A public works spokesman has denied claims by an association of IT suppliers that Ottawa has put on hold a new tender process for printers and computers pending more industry consultation, but acknowledge the deadline has been changed.

“I have had some e-mail exchange with Linda Jellicoe [Public Works’ lead procurement officer for printers] and they are putting the printer standing offer on hold pending more industry information coming in,” said Herman Yeh, president of an Ottawa VAR and leader of the Canadian Information Technology Providers Association.

The final printer standing offer was supposed to be completed Aug. 16, but Yeh said he was told by Jellicoe it will now come out in September.

He also said that he was told Tuesday by Jerome Thauvette, who he described as the director for a new standing offer for servers, desktop PCs and laptops that was supposed to be out this month, that all new tender rules have been frozen.

Thauvette “told me all the standing offers will be on hold right now,” Yeh said. “If we have any proposals we should wait until the drafts come out in September, then ask questions at that time.

France Langlois, a Public Works department spokesperson insists neither standing offer is on hold.

However, in an interview this morning she acknowledged the date for industry to submit responses to the proposed printer standing order has been extended to September. She had no exact deadline for submissions.

According to an ammendment to the printer standing offer quietly filed last week, Public Works said the deadline is being extended because it is “contemplating changes designed to increase access” of bidders. “Prospective bidders are asked to refrain from submitting further questions until such time as an ammendment is issued which incorporates the changes.”

“The servers, desktop, notebooks RSFO (request for standing offer) is not on hold,” she also said, “but we are planning to proceed after additional consultation with industry and their associations.”

No date has been set for the publication of a new standing offer for these products, she said. The schedule for the release of new tender rules is “following its due course.”

An indication of the pressure the government has been under is that a meeting two weeks ago between the government and PC suppliers to discuss the release of a new draft standing offer for those products was cancelled. However, Public Works says that meeting was only postponed.

While Yeh is pleased with what is group is interpreting as movement by the government through his communications with Jellicoe and Thauvette, he also said Public Works hasn’t made it clear how far it is willing to go to alter its new procurement strategies, which are driven by a goal of slashing $2.5 billion in purchasing over the next five years.

Yeh’s association fears if the proposed printer standing offer – which creates a more competitive pricing atmosphere than the existing rules – goes ahead it will cut out some vendors and their VARs.

Asked if the department has given any sign that it is willing to tear up the printer rules it released last month, Yeh replied, “They just want to talk. They did not say what kind of changes they will incorporate.”

On the other hand, he acknowledged that “all the indications are that they are trying to see what the industry is trying to propose. But what they are saying very clearly is ‘Don’t just come in to complain about it but come up with some solution.”

“We don’t question the intention of saving taxpayers money,” said Yeh. “But the way they are doing it just doesn’t work.”

His association has 31 members, including national VARs such as Xwave and Metafore. Industry members include Samsung, Viewsonic, Tech Data, Ingram Micro, Supercom, 3COM, HP, Apple, Targus and Toshiba.