CATA appoints government relations exec to take on procurement

The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance on Monday said it has brought on an expert in government relations to improve the dialogue between Treasury Board and its members around controversial reforms to federal procurement policies.

CATA said Peter Thomas had joined its management team as government relations executive. Formerly an independent consultant based in Ottawa, CATA said Treasury Board’s Expert Project Consultant Program has recognized Thomas as one of the top-ranking ICT architects consulting to the public sector. Thomas was also a director of technology consulting with Fujitsu Consulting and a partner with Information Systems Group.

Thomas said he has had a long-standing relationship with CATA president John Reid for many years, and his decision to join the industry association came about casually through ongoing discussions. He said he has also performed similar functions with the Canadian Association of Management Consultants, which has grappled with issues much like the ones around procurement reform that face CATA members now.

Earlier this year, CATA and other IT groups said they were blindsided by a proposal from Treasury Board that it would begin a process to limit the number of vendors that compete on lucrative IT contracts. The government has also said it is considering electronic reverse auctions to reduce costs, a strategy that has riled Canadian resellers and other small business that provide technology products and services.

“I think they wanted to move ahead very quickly, to be seen to be doing something,” Thomas told ITBusiness.ca. “They knew a number of significant standing offers were coming up, and they wanted to have policies in place. Unfortunately, in terms of working with industry, somehow the ball got dropped.”

Thomas positioned himself as a primary liaison between CATA and government officials, adding that there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest reverse auctions aren’t the panacea Treasury Board officials may believe.

“They end up losing money because it is so cost-driven,” he said. “The value isn’t put in by the suppliers – they are determined to minimize costs and break even if they can. It may save money in the short term but leads to demands to renegotiate.”

Among other activities, Thomas said CATA is considering the idea of creating an organization that would spread across industries outside of technology that would convene with procurement officials on an annual basis to sort out mutual concerns.

ITAC, meanwhile, said last month it has established a Government Vendor Forum that is “seeking to create a common message to government regarding the need for consultation prior to introduction of seminal changes.” ITAC already has a public sector committee which recently met with Treasury Board officials to discuss procurement reform.

In an earlier interview with ITBusiness.ca, ITAC president Bernard Courtois said the association is focused on a key topic – figuring out why the government “buys wrong,” and how to turn things around.

“As long as they have a legitimate need for large quantities at any point in time, it’s logical to aggregate the quantities, so you get a better price,” he said. “What you don’t want to do is aggregate and have it sitting in a warehouse, because then you’re not getting value for the money and distorting the market again.”

Comment: info@itbuiness.ca

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