Rivals to Fuji-Xerox, the -“preferred tenderer” which recently secured a multi-million dollar New Zealand Defence Force photocopier contract seem anxious to appear uncritical — despite an anonymous email sent the to media, which says security guidelines for selection were observed.
Computerworld received a copy of the email last month. In it, the self-proclaimed “whistleblower” says rivals’ equipment has a superior security rating to the Fuji-Xerox equipment which has been provisionally chosen.
This means, says the email, the NZDF has not observed guidelines that say the rating should be taken into account.
Audit New Zealand has been asked to “review what has taken place to date”, says NZDF spokeswoman Major Denise Mackay. She declined to give a report back date but said it would be soon.
Audit New Zealand has passed the job on to the Office of the Auditor General. Spokesman Gareth Ellis says the review is still at an early stage and the Office is not even sure the claim is worth investigating. He says this preliminary stage would probably be completed some time this week. The tender in question closed in late April.
The security rating concerned is the Evaluation Assurance Level. The whistleblower quotes Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) standards NZSIT 400, which states, “Products that have been tested to a higher Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL) rating should be considered over those tested to a lower rating.”
“Under NZSIT 401, which relates to Secure and Classified Information, products certified at a higher level must be purchased,” the informant says. “Should” and “must” are formal terms in government guidelines, the latter expressing an absolute requirement.
Gary Loveridge, spokesman for Ricoh, one of the rivals for the tender, points out that no contract has been signed yet and Mackay confirms this. She says negotiations are still in progress and final choice depends on these negotiations and Audit NZ’s review.
“We can only assume that [in spite of the inferior security rating] there were some other factors that led NZDF to choose [Fuji-Xerox],” says Loveridge, although there are “definitely areas of concern” in the process.
“But we’re not wanting to blow whistles” he says.
Brendan Winitana, spokesman for another bidder, Sharp, says, “We can confirm that Sharp MFP technology is recognised for its high level of EAL rating.”
However, she says, lots of elements form the basis of a contract and “if it was based on security alone, in terms of the technology, we may have reason to consider it unfair.”
The whistleblower is believed to come from another government agency.