Pressure forces Ottawa to rethink new procurement rules

Ottawa’s fledgling steps at procurement reform have stumbled under pressure from suppliers, who have forced the minister of Public Works to suspend one new purchasing policy and to promise that his department hasn’t finalized any rule changes.

Announced quietly on Friday in a press release, Public Works Minister Michael Fortier said that a new standing offer for purchasing temporary help, released only seven days earlier, will be revised.

But while it didn’t mention a new standing offer for computer printers — released at the same time — which raised the ire of an association of federal IT suppliers, a Public Works spokesman said that the press release also means that offer also has not been finalized.

“We are having ongoing discussions” on the new printer standing offer, France Langois said in an interview. “We’ve been consulting, but we will be consulting further.

“He’s not only talking about (revising) temporary help,” Langois added, “he’s also talking about (the entire) procurement plan. There’s a hold on additional standing offers for commodities.”

An indication of the pressure the government is under is that a briefing for PCs, servers and notebook suppliers that had been scheduled for Tuesday (July 11) on a new standing offer for those products has been cancelled, according to Chris Coates, a spokesman for the Canadian Government Information Technology Providers Association, which represents some 18 companies that do business with Ottawa.

Public Works has been discussing for some time plans to overhaul the way the government procures products and services to slash $2.5 billion in spending over five years.

News that Fortier has promised his department will continue to discuss proposed procurement changes with industry and suppliers before issuing more standing orders was cheered by Coates, who last week said his group was going to lobby the cabinet to stop the new printer buying rules. The association fears the new standing orders are an attempt to winnow down the number of printer suppliers, which would also cut the number of printer VARs selling to Ottawa.

“We’re just unbelievably encouraged that they (the government) are now reacting. It’s obviously on the minister’s radar and he’s taking an active participation. He’s putting a hold on it to figure out what’s going on.”

“It looks like they finally want to have a serious conversation with the industries that are involved.”

The association wants to see the 10-day-old printer and the immenant PC hardware standing orders for four months “until they have in-depth industry consultations” on the proposed changes.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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