Treasury is asking for “innovative ideas for increasing efficiency or (sic) effectiveness” in government operations, but has explicitly excluded ICT proposals “unless they are a necessary enabler to the broader idea”.
ICT improvement, it says, is the province of a separate request, issued last September, and is being coordinated by the office of the government CIO.
“The two [ICT and non-ICT] pipelines are managed in partnership and information from [submissions to the latest request] may be transferred to GCIO where appropriate,” says a Treasury request for registration of interest (RoI), issued earlier this month.
The request has brought comment from NZRise president Don Christie that the UK government has already done Treasury’s work for it, having formulated a “Better for Less” report, last September. That report – concentrating on ICT solutions - emphasises increased use of open-source software.
Our government, Christie says, has made a bad start by issuing the Treasury RoI as a .docx document. “The RoI document is formatted in such a way that it can only be read by recent versions of Microsoft Office, currently retailing at $837.43,” he says. “The document stipulates that responses should be in the same proprietary, non-standard format, docx.”
It makes little sense, Christie says, to separate ICT – an acknowledged part of the inefficiency problem – from other aspects.
But Treasury spokesman Chris Ritchie insists: “It is logical to separate ICT and non-ICT to make them both more manageable. The two streams were designed to run hand in hand so we get the benefits of consistency and efficiency without making it unmanageable.”
Referring to the UK report, Ritchie says, “Experiences in other jurisdictions feature in all the work that we do. This initiative doesn’t replace our own research; it is an opportunity for the private sector to come up with ideas to add to the mix.”
Implementation of any solutions will use funding made available to agencies for efficiency improvement in the 2011 Budget; this will flow through to the private-sector providers.
“It would be nice to be able to make one suggestion to Treasury - that they stop paying unnecessarily for licensed software. However, it seems that the more than $2 billion the Government spends on ICT is out of scope for this initiative [as] ‘the Treasury will not be considering ICT solutions’,” says Christie.
“Open source options are considered by agencies and there is strong support for this approach within the public sector,” says Ritchie at Treasury. “However licence fees are not the only consideration when making these decisions which is why it is not always the approach that is taken.”
Open source providers are welcome to contribute to the efficiency drive, he adds. “However we are yet to see any substantive approach from the open source community through this process. There is nothing that precludes agencies from using open source software provided it meets all relevant standards, and provides a better total cost of ownership, over and above the purely licensing related costs.”