Government gets bossy over hub

As expected, core government agencies are to be required to use the GoProcure electronic procurement system, but only to the extent of putting transactions through the system's hub.

As expected, core government agencies are to be required to use the GoProcure electronic procurement system, but only to the extent of putting transactions through the system’s hub.

This ensures all transactions are centralised and information shared. It also aggregates demand, so suppliers to more than one department have the option of filling bulk orders.

Agencies will, however, be free to process the bulk of the procurement task, such as sourcing, requisitioning and order-tracking, with their own internal systems, rather than using the Oracle-supplied part of GoProcure’s solution.

This compromise course on GoProcure was signalled last month. Such mandating breaks with policy established in the late 1980s of individual departmental choice and accountability, State Services Minister Trevor Mallard acknowledges. There has been a trend towards such cross-departmental thinking already within e-government, he says, with a standard metadata scheme and interoperability requirements enforced across agencies for the greater good.

"Increasingly there will be a number of agencies working on projects together and a number of eyes on them," rather than all the work being done in one agency and perhaps duplicated in another.

Mallard even suggests that a little less staunch departmental independence might have saved the government from embarrassments like the unsuccessful Incis police computer system. If there had been a few more eyes on that, doubts about its viability might have been raised earlier, he suggests.

The government’s "Review of the Centre" report (see Departments likely to co-orperate more under e-gov't) signalled an increased degree of co-operation as desirable, particularly among groups of agencies with common spheres of operation, Mallard notes.

"We [government agencies] have had a history since 1988 of thinking of ourselves rather than the whole of government," Mallard says.

"This is not a big Stalinist change, but there is a change of direction towards what we think is good for the whole of government and for New Zealand."

Suppliers to government will be required to participate in the system, but this does not mean a lawnmowing service being required to put in an online GoProcure connection, says e-government procurement specialist Greg Nichols. Such a small trader would have their details on the system, but would deal one to one with the customer.

Having a single point of contact with government procurement will be to the particular benefit of New Zealand’s many small and medium-sized enterprises, says Mallard.

Five departments and crown entities, which have not been named, will be in the first batch to come on to the system, and likely to adopt it entirely. This first phase will run to October 2003. From the following month, GoProcure "will be progressively rolled out to all other departments and large crown entities", says Mallard. Crown entities and organisations on the fringe of government, like universities, will not be required to link to the system, but some Crown entities are among the early enthusiasts, Mallard hints.

The price of the system is still under negotiation with providers Oracle and CAP-Gemini. An original contract figure of $7.5m is the starting point for negotiations, says e-government unit head Brendan Boyle.

GoProcure is expected to be a revenue-neutral exercise, with user agencies paying a fixed levy to use the system. This is a better plan than a percentage on transactions, which could encourage users to circumvent the system. That "clip the ticket" approach was considered, but it has failed in exercises such as the School Trustees Association’s STAbuy, says Boyle.

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