State Services Minister Trevor Mallard says the possibility of government agencies being compelled to use the GoProcure e-procurement system is “being considered”, but he won’t be more specific about the time scale and forums for that possibility.
Mallard made the statement in reply to a question from ACT leader Richard Prebble, an opponent of the system. Prebble says the government-sponsored GoProcure is a waste of money and an attempt by a backward-looking public service to reinstate the Government Stores Board.
Before the mid-80s restructuring and deregulation rush, the GSB was the central purchasing agency for government.
“The State Services Commission doesn’t have a job, so they’ve got to justify their existence by recreating the GSB in the form of a computer,” Prebble says. If that were done, “it would be illegal; departments are supposed to make their own decisions”.
Prebble’s parliamentary question arose following a question by Labour MP Ross Robertson, on authentication procedures for e-government.
Prebble stepped in with a supplementary question: “Will the minister confirm that the government’s proposed online purchasing system, GoProcure, is way behind schedule and is over budget, and that, as of 31 August, only two departments have signed letters of intent to use the online system, so he is threatening to mandate that every department will be forced to use this untested, expensive, unproven government information technology system?”
Mallard replied: “I think it is no, no, no, [ie, negative replies to the “behind schedule”, “over budget” and “only two letters of intent” questions] and the question of mandating for the best for the whole of government is being considered.”
The question of proceeding or not proceeding with the GoProcure system, developed by Oracle and CAP-Gemini Ernst & Young, is to be put before a Cabinet meeting later this month or next.
Mallard declined to make any further comment last week, sticking to his resolve not to discuss GoProcure publicly until after that meeting.
The subject of independence of departmental chief executives in IT decisions versus a measure of central control has emerged at various times in the course of e-government projects. For that reason, agencies were presented with multiple choices of secure email systems, with the stipulation that they all conformed to certain standards. At least one for the first three selected initially did not conform.