Public Works dampens hopes for procurement policy revision

Printer manufacturers and their reseller partners shouldn’t expect the Public Works department to do more than tinker with the controversial new purchasing policy unveiled this month.

That was the message delivered to ITBusiness.ca in an interview Tuesday with two senior ministry officials.

Marshall Moffat, director general of the department’s Office of Small and Medium Enterprises, and Linda Jellicoe, lead procurement officer for printers, emphasized that suppliers still have three more weeks to put their views to bureaucrats before the latest printer tender policy — officially called a request for standing offer — is finalized.

But Moffat and Jellicoe said those discussions won’t lead to a tearing apart of the new offer, as urged by the Canadian Government Information Technology Providers Association, which represents some 18 companies that do business with Ottawa.

“It is possible we may need to make modifications to the printer request for standing offer,” said Moffat, “but we’re not considering at this point that wholesale change will be required.”

“If there are changes that come up through the question and answer process (in the next three weeks) it will just be tweaking and refinements,” added Jellicoe. “I don’t see us changing our approach because I think this one really will work well for all concerned.” 

As for a four-month delay in bringing out any new standing offers to get more industry input suggested by Chris Coates, a spokesman for the IT providers, Moffat replied, “that’s not the track we’re on.”

Their comments were immediately dismissed by Coates. “There are some major clauses in the printer standing offer that are just not acceptable,” he said. “It will take more than tweaking to help SMEs.”

The association has vowed to lobby the Harper government cabinet to change the new standing offer, part of a series alterations in the way Ottawa buys goods and services — everything from furniture to servers — to save the government $2.5 billion over five years.

However, that plan is shaking in the face of opposition from suppliers. Last week Public Works was forced to suspend a new request for standing offer over hiring temporary help, with minister Michael Fortier promising the seven day-old policy “revised” after industry consultation.

The press release making that announcement emphasized that the government is still talking to manufacturers and suppliers before the standing orders are set. 

However, Moffat dismissed a suggestion the uproar by the private sector plus the withdrawal of the standing offer on temporary help means the ministry’s new procurement strategy is off the rails.

“I’m very bullish that spending more time and effort to consult does not mean that we’re off the rails. I would say exactly the opposite. We’re on the rails.”

Nor would he say that he’s disappointed with the private sector protests, insisting that the department is working diligently to take concerns of suppliers into account. But he emphasized that the ministry has for quite some time said it wants to get more value for money in its purchases.

“We said we would be a tougher customer,” he said.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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