The State Services Commission’s e-government unit is planning its own e-procurement pilot project, to make a selection of a suitable service for the whole of government during the second half of the year.
After completion of the pilot the unit aims to roll out a final system by the middle of next year, says head Brendan Boyle.
The pilot may involve one or a few selected suppliers and its main purpose will be to “refine the business case” for whole of government e-procurement, Boyle says.
This process will be almost independent of the Department of Work and Income’s pilot, for which DWI has just selected two competing consortia, despite the fact that Gary Lewis, the department's finance chief, is co-ordinating the e-procurement facet of the e-government plan.
It was widely assumed when DWI issued its request to tender that its e-procurement project would set a direction for the big government project, but that is now clearly not so.
“We will, of course, get some learnings from that [trial]," Boyle says, but Police and the Defence Force also have e-procurement projects on the go, and those, too, will provide valuable information. “We’ll identify any gaps between what they have and what we’re planning,” he says.
The major benefits of the big e-procurement system will be to the whole of government, says Boyle, though “there may well be benefits” for individual departments and agencies in their own operations.
He declines to comment on DWI’s selection of consortia involving EDS and Solnet on the one hand and CAP-Genini-Ernst &Young and Oracle on the other. Industry sources have expressed surprise at the choice, expecting one or more of world-leaders Commerce One and Ariba to make it into the final two.
Lewis, who co-ordinated DWI's evaluation, says the department may decide at the end of the trial not to take either of the systems and instead to stick to its own. “The major criterion was how much they enhanced our current systems. The two we selected we think do that, but we’re under no obligation to take either of them.”
Others in the market suggest DWI was not strongly committed to the choice of successful supplier because the trial would be run free of charge, and the choice did not therefore have to be rigorously justified to the minister and Cabinet.
Lewis confirms Boyle’s statement that the DWI and whole-of-government e-procurement exercise will run in parallel and a “gaps analysis” will be performed between the two, rather than the former setting a foundation for the latter.
"But we are ahead of them [the e-government initiative] on this," both in the selection of final candidates and by virtue of having done e-procurement for several years, he says.