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Ottawa VARs to fight the feds

Channel group to battle single sourcing

A group of Ottawa VARs – including some of the nation’s largest solution providers with federal practices – has formed a group to urge the government not to discriminate against the channel in any new procurement policies.

“The reseller community in Ottawa is very concerned,” said Herman Yeh, a board member of the fledgling Canadian Government Infor-mation Technology Providers Association and president of Northern Micro, an Ottawa-based systems integrator, which does $30 million worth of business with the federal government annually.

The association wants to “express our concern and make sure we are not blocked out from the reform,” he said.

The group held its first meeting last month.

So far 18 companies have expressed interest in the association, including SoftChoice, NexInnovations and Xwave, three of the biggest VARs in the country, all of which have significant federal practices.

It has been suggested companies pay $1,000 for full membership, once the association has been legally set up.

Others represented at the initial meeting included Nitro Micro, IronGate Server Management and Consulting, Integra Networks and Itex Inc.

Their concerns are directed towards efforts by Public Works and Government Services to overhaul the procurement of all goods and services.

Called “The Way Forward” plan, it aims to save $2.5 billion over five-years, in part by leveraging Ottawa’s buying power.

Among the goals are to cut by 50 per cent the time it takes to buy goods and services and reduce its internal procurement costs by 10 per cent.

But increasingly, the association alleges, the focus has been to purchase very large quantities of products directly from manufacturers.

“We think they’re overlooking the value of the channel in assisting government IT people in recognizing products available for their business needs, and enabling them to integrate products properly,” said Mark Jones, director of business development at IronGate. An Apple VAR, it is approved to sell audio visual products to the government. While Ottawa is “an emerging market for us,” he said, it fears being shut out.

Should federal spending be slanted against resellers “there will be dramatic layoffs here,” he predicted. “There would be closure of several resellers in the Ottawa area.”

Pierre Teotonio, a senior Public Works communications advisor, pointed out that under current government regulations single sourcing of purchases is restricted to emergency expenditures and purchases of less than $25,000.

The government has been sensitive to concerns of small businesses that they are being squeezed out by bureaucrats.

In April, Public Works Minister Michael Fortier said that a series of regional offices and the creation of a procurement auditor will mean increased support for small businesses selling to the government.

The department has promised to legislate openness, fairness and transparency in procurement, aided by the creation of offices across the country to promote Ottawa as a potential client for smaller firms.

However, rules under which the procurement officer will work have yet to be set.