New Zealand Police is having to make temporary procurement arrangements following a Cabinet decision to pull the plug on GoProcure.
Police, along with the University of Auckland, has been using the trial implementation of GoProcure, the State Services Commission-sponsored e-procurement system.
Although the timing of GoProcure’s termination “is not ideal”, Police procurement spokesman Stan Pope believes it’s the right decision, and he had prepared for the possibility.
From February, Police will move to a “point-to-point” solution, communicating with suppliers individually through the internet. The point-to-point approach “gives us complete control of our own upgrades”, Pope says. In the meantime, it faces work in “backing out” of GoProcure and putting a temporary solution in place to cover the end of this year and beginning of next.
Logistics specialist Tim Munro, who has been a critic of GoProcure, is “not really surprised” by its demise. It is hard to make a centralised procurement portal work in the New Zealand market outside niche areas, he says, especially as many suppliers have developed sophisticated procurement systems of their own, offered to their customers free or at low cost.
GoProcure failed to fulfil its promise to “leverage scale” by allowing small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) to take part as suppliers to government, he says.
But Munro, of the New Zealand Logistics Association, says one of the factors the portal trial did show up, as acknowledged by State Services Minister Trevor Mallard, is that buying organisations need to do some work on their own procurement processes. A centralised procurement system “is not something that creates control for you; you have to do that yourself”.
“The project showed some agencies need to focus on more basic procurement improvement initiatives, and on working with other agencies to buy more effectively,” Mallard says. The State Services Commission has set up a “syndicated procurement unit” which will “work to promote the benefits of inter-agency collaboration”.
The decision to put an end to GoProcure was made finally at a Cabinet meeting last week, apparently in the face of strong urging by the State Services Commission that the project be allowed to continue.
Treasury and Cabinet both opposed the continuation, says a source close to the meeting. However, Mallard discounts that impression.
“It was Cabinet which made the decision, at its meeting on December 8, not Treasury and not the State Services Commission,” he says. However, “the decision made by ministers was based on a report to a Cabinet committee, which, as is common, contained more than one option”.
Hailed as one of the key applications of e-government in its early days, GoProcure was intended to increase the efficiency of government agencies’ procurement of goods and services by centralising the network and hence lessening the number of interfaces between agencies and suppliers.
The project was originally budgeted at $7.5 million, including the full-service option. Only $2 million has been spent on the system to date, Mallard says.