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Ottawa VARs still mad at Feds

VARs upset at Public Works' overhaul of its printer procurement policy will lobby politicians to alter the initiative

“We’re very dismayed that some of the critical changes we were most adamantly against were not changed,” said Chris Coates, a spokesman for the Canadian Government Inform-ation Technology Providers Association, which represents some 18 companies that do business with Ottawa.

Public Works only “tweaked” regulations it proposed in June for choosing printer suppliers, he said, so the association has decided to lobby cabinet ministers to open the rules.

“We are extremely concerned over (the government’s) continual direction towards reducing the number of suppliers,” he said, which will cut the number of resellers eligible to fulfill government purchase orders.

Their concern about the government’s new procurement policies may soar higher later this month with the release of new rules for the bidding on PCs, laptops and servers.

The worry heated up last month when the government proposed cutting the number of printer suppliers for its next National Master Standing Orders (NMSOs) down to two. Approved suppliers on the NMSO list and their resellers are the only ones government departments can buy from.

But on July 4, after protests from resellers and vendors, Public Works’ latest printer tender increased the number of possible suppliers to eight, divided into two groups – Group 1 for what are called standard printers, and Group 2 for specialized equipment, in which there will be nine sub-categories.

Four suppliers will be designated in Group 1 and four in each of the nine sub-categories of Group 2.

However, only two of the four would be active at any time. The other two can bid after six months to become one of the active suppliers for the next six months.

Although the Public Works Web site outlining the changes doesn’t specify, Coates said the two non-active NMSO vendors in each group will bid on contracts in a reverse auction. Ottawa “is using them as bait” to cut prices, he said.

Public Works is trying to cut $2.5 billion in spending over the next five years on everything it buys.

Resellers ‘will benefit’
At press time a government spokesman could not be reached for comment. However, the Public Works Web site includes this statement: “Regional support and distribution will be required and thus will benefit SMEs who participate as agents and resellers.”

The site says the previous NMSO system created a “complex environment and did not result in obtaining everyday ‘best value’ prices.”

More than 30 sub-categories of printers and over 200 models of printers are being bought, the site said. The new system will reduce the number of printer models the government will buy.

Although 11 vendors had standing offers under the previous system, the site adds, over 90 per cent of purchases were from two manufacturers.

Coates said they are Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark.

Meanwhile Public Works is scheduled to meet with potential PC, notebook and server suppliers in the middle of this month prior to releasing a NMSO for those products.

“We will be really anxious to see (it),” said Coates. “That is a critical one” for Canadian white box manufacturers.

Coates’ company, The Coates Agency, represents vendors doing federal business.