Boost for government e-procurement system

The next phase of the stalled Government Electronic Procurement System (G-EPS) project is set to begin anew this week, this time with a new contractor building it.

The long-delayed second phase of the G-EPS project, an important component in the campaign to clean up the government's procurement process, is set to begin afresh after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) broke off its first contract with ITBF Philippines, the earlier winner of the bidding for the project, for ITBF's failure to issue a performance bond.

Taking the place of ITBF is the Ayala Systems and Technology Inc. (ASTI), who earlier lost the bid to ITBF but was awarded the contract after the winner failed to issue a performance bond worth 5 percent of the 250-million-peso (US$4.5 million) project.

Rosa Clemente, project manager of the G-EPS, said a post-qualification examination of ASTI's technical and financial capabilities was undertaken before the contract was awarded to it. ITBF's was not able to issue the performance bond required under the project before the October 2003 deadline.

Clemente said ITBF was given an extension but was still not able to comply with the requirement. Thus, the contract with ITBF was rescinded in January this year.

The awarding of the G-EPS contract to ASTI capped a roller-coaster ride for the project. Earlier, ITBF and ASTI were involved in a highly-charged legal tussle after the former initially won the bidding for the G-EPS project. ASTI took ITBF to court, which delayed the implementation of the project.

However, when ITBF was finally given the go-signal to start implementing the project, it could not present the performance bond required under its contract.

Clemente explained that ASTI's bid was considered because it placed second in the bidding process. A post-qualification examination of ASTI's capabilities was conducted before the contract was finally given to them. As soon as it signed the contract, it immediately issued the performance bond, said Clemente.

The second phase of the G-EPS project that was given to ASTI involves the enhancement of the existing electronic procurement system. The G-EPS currently features an electronic bulletin board, an online catalog and the suppliers registry.

The project also involves the development of a virtual store, which will enable the ordering of common and non-common use items, said Clemente. The second phase also includes a facility for downloading bid notices, user manuals and other messaging information.

An electronic payment system will also be installed, along with a security system that incorporates digital signatures and certificates. Eventually all government suppliers will be required to secure digital certificates that can be used in the procurement transactions of all government agencies.

The project also includes training for government staff and facilities for disaster recovery.

The project is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2005. Originally, the project was intended to be finished in late 2002.

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