It will be the middle of next year before local IT suppliers know whether they are getting a fair crack of the whip in government tenders.
The Ministry of Economic Development will be embarking early next year on a study into the effectiveness of a set of policy guidelines established in July, which try to bring local companies into the loop on government orders with a value above $50,000.
The guidelines stipulate “full and fair opportunity for domestic suppliers” as a key policy. Others are “best value for money over whole of life”, open and effective competition, improving business capabilities “including e-commerce capability” and recognition of bilateral trading obligations to Australia and Singapore.
As part of the exposure of tenders to local suppliers, government agencies are required to report tenders of the designated value to the Industrial Supplies Office, part of Industry New Zealand, which, “if appropriate” will put the details on its web-based Government Electronic Tender Service (GETS).
“This is a policy, and we [MED] have no control over purchasing,” says MED official Tim Barber, the key figure in devising the principles. The planned study will seek to establish what proportion of tenders and pre-tender documents were actually made readily accessible to local suppliers since the policy was formulated.
Potential friction on this topic emerged last week over an Inland Revenue order for 1000 PCs, which has been awarded to Dell. But that order fitted the guidelines, the IRD says. GSB Supplycorp handled the exercise on the department’s behalf.
IRD spokesman Paul Ryder, after consultation with GSB Supplycorp’s Peter Royal, issued the following statement: “GSB Supplycorp uses a contract process that complies with government’s procurement practices. Known as C14 (Computer Hardware), the contract process acknowledges obligations to give New Zealand and Australian businesses a fair and equal opportunity to compete with other businesses. The process demands evaluation of a business’s ability to meet client requirements and assessment of their capability. The contract process was followed to the letter [in the IR order].”
The 1000 PCs are more powerful than the average departmental desktop: each has a 1.5GHz processor and 20GB of disk. They are “consistent with the level of technology coming out of California today”, Ryder says. “Bearing in mind the rapid pace of technological change, the department elected to buy machines that would give reasonable performance over the medium term.”