The New South Wales government has substantially widened the scope of its core ‘commercial-off-the-shelf’ (COTS) technology procurement mechanism after it introduced three new key categories to its ICT Services Scheme including hardware acquisition, software licencing and telecommunications.
Under the new arrangement, the extra categories will let agencies buy products and services from companies registered in the Scheme without the requirement of going to a formal request for tender process, a move many smaller businesses have been strongly agitating for as a more cost effective way of doing business with government.
A big challenge that many government purchasers and their suppliers have faced is that the falling price of technology –including computers, managed services like cloud computing and network connectivity – have increasingly made the traditional public tender process comparatively expensive compared to what is being procured.
The move to put hardware, software licencing and telecommunications under the Shared Services Scheme substantially builds out the portfolio of tech products now available to government that had previously covered architecture and design, benchmarking, data centre, end user computing, strategy, network management, risk management, ICT programs, server management, security management, learning services, systems and solutions.
A big advantage for governments in running the equivalent of an internal, pre-approved supplier marketplace is that smaller agencies can often access the same kind deep discounts that previously only the largest departments could obtain because of their substantial buying power.
At the same time supplier competition for work is increased because smaller players essentially only have to go through a single process to potentially access many clients rather than bidding for each piece of work. Previously, often only larger companies bid for smaller lots of work because they retained full time, in-house commercial tendering teams that made bidding cost effective.
The recently expanded NSW scheme replaces an existing set of complex arrangements that recently reached their expiration date.
They include the Contract 2846 for Storage and Server devices which expired on 30 April 2014 and the Government Telecommunication Agreement which expired on 31 March 2014.
The new scheme also replaces the General Devices component previously available under the ICT Hardware Agreement 888.
The expansion is part of the Office of Finance and Services’ (OFS) ongoing procurement reform as part of the NSW Government ICT Strategy 2012.
This Strategy was the brainchild of the Barry O’Farrell government’s war on “red tape”, which was designed to give agencies continual access to new suppliers and emerging technologies.
It creates conditions for agencies to engage with industry through a panel of prequalified suppliers that provide a range of ICT solutions to assist agencies and authorised buyers that effectively bypasses traditional tender processes.
However the Scheme allows agencies to take the option of inviting companies to participate in a competitive request for tender through its eQuote system.
Minister for Finance and Services Dominic Perrottet said the Scheme is “growing rapidly” with over 1,000 companies registered as the scheme continues into new categories, meeting the majority of the government’s ICT requirements.
“Agencies can now draw from a talent pool which offers a wider choice of ICT solutions and encourages competition and innovation, which is great news for the government and the taxpayer,” Mr Perrottet said.
He said these new arrangements will ensure public sector agencies can find and procure services that best meet their needs as well as “cut red tape”.
“We will continue to support business by facilitating these procurement reforms and providing industry with opportunities to collaborate with us,” he said.
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