Customs incumbent will not bid for project

A major middleware project aimed at linking information systems within the Customs department and to outside organisations is attracting fewer bids than might be expected.

A major middleware project aimed at linking information systems within the Customs department and to outside organisations is attracting fewer bids than might be expected.

Some bidders are apparently uncertain that the business case for the system can be justified, and that it will therefore go ahead. Other bidders, however, sound more hopeful.

Sybase, whose systems are extensively used within Customs, will not be making a bid, though it did participate in the request for proposal phase.

Sybase managers will make no official comment beyond confirming that the company will not be responding to the tender, but a source close to the company say the payback to vendors is uncertain. Payment is largely deferred and dependent on "performance", when in the vendors' judgement it is not certain that the project will, in the end, be financially justifiable.

Sybase also needs a partner in the form of a systems integrator, says the source, and could find no suitable company that was willing to make the punt on a project that "may be trying to fix something that isn't broken".

BEA NZ sales manager Adam Young, however, confirms the company intends to make a bid, or even two bids with different partners.

As an IT project the idea is "visionary" says the Sybase informant, but a weak business case creates a risk of it being cancelled, or at least of benefits being difficult to demonstrate sufficiently for suppliers to get paid an appropriate amount.

A further particular problem for Sybase, Computerworld understands, is that, having a lot of its own systems in the department it would have approached the task differently and more straightforwardly than spelt out in the tender. The department, however, would not permit a "non-compliant response".

BEA's Young declines to give any further detail of partnership arrangement, or to discuss BEA's expectations of the payments schedule. "Every [bidding] vendor would naturally have the expectation that it will pay, but I can't offer any comment [on the difficulty of the task] without scoping it fully first."

Customs declines to release a copy of the tender to Computerworld, claiming commercial confidentiality, and refuses to comment on any aspect of the RFI or tendering processes. Spokesman John Kyne says there have been "six or seven" responses to the tender, which closes at the end of this month.

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