Agencies shy of govt e-buying

With a couple of weeks to go to the government's e-procurement deadline, no departments are putting up their hands with enthusiasm.

With a couple of weeks to go to the government's e-procurement deadline, no departments are putting up their hands with enthusiasm.

Cabinet will next month make a final decision on whether to go ahead with the government’s online procurement project, known as GoProcure.

This deadline has arrived after an elaborate process of government piloting an e-procurement system, selecting vendors and having them develop it to a demonstrable phase. The go-or-no-go Cabinet decision will depend crucially on the number of agencies that commit to use the system. The e-government unit acknowledged last year that survival of the project was dependent on a sufficient number of committed users (Govt e-procurement could die for lack of customers).

E-government unit procurement specialist Greg Nichols says the unit is "looking for a number [of committed agencies] in the order of 20-plus", but he will not say how many volunteers have given a firm commitment to date.

Agencies have been asked to give a written commitment by August 31 if they intend to use GoProcure. Almost 50 agencies have had the system demonstrated to them -- the count in a July 8 newsletter on the unit’s website is 47 and Nicols says "there may have been a couple of new ones" since then.

The 47 listed comprise 26 departments and ministries, two offices of Parliament, four local government bodies, five crown research institutes (CRIs), two health agencies and eight "others".

All those who have seen the system have had some measure of discussion with the suppliers, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and Oracle, with a view to formulating a business case, Nichols says. He would not name any who had committed to GoProcure, pending the Cabinet meeting.

Following agency business case development, a "letter of intent" committing the agency to use GoProcure will be required by the deadline. "After addressing system implementation and compatibility issues with individual agencies, a memorandum of understanding will then be signed by agencies," the website says.

If other agencies decide, after the August 31 deadline, that they want to go ahead with GoProcure after all, they will "probably not" be refused, Nichols says.

A ring-round of major departments last week found no definite takers who would admit to it. The Ministry of Social Development, which as Winz was heavily involved in the development of GoProcure and a preceding pilot, declined to comment, passing responsibility back to Nichols. Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Fisheries, two other early pilot agencies, say they are "still evaluating" the prospect. "An announcement will be made shortly," says IR spokeswoman Sian Routledge, declining to be more specific on timescale.

No one could be found in the Ministry of Education who even knew of the system. This includes the ministry's facilities management head, who said normally she would be the person to consult on procurement matters. A call to the IT department likewise drew a blank.

The Police Department has already said it will not be a GoProcure customer but is committed to developing its own system. The Defence Force is likewise pursuing its own course, with SAP's Enterprise Buyer Professional, though it is "participating in the development of GoProcure" because it has considerable expertise in the field, says logistics spokesman Stuart Baillie.

The Ministry of Economic Development was also approached, but could not provide a reply. The best informed spokesman, we were told, was on leave and his deputy said she was not clear on the latest progress of GoProcure negotiations, though negotiations are in train. She suggested they could well have been held up by the change of government.

Re-approached, Nichols said he was "surprised" we could not find any agencies with definite commitment, but asked to name a few he again said he could not discuss agencies' commitment before reporting to "our stakeholders in Cabinet".

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