TORONTO–Want to be a VOR of the Ontario government? Well, get on the Merx, know the difference between an RFI and an RFIE and submit your RFP on time.
The Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) for Ontario held a procurement 101 seminar in Toronto on Wednesday. Government officials
and consultants outlined to audience of about 150 vendors and suppliers on how to win government contracts.
Jeremy Griggs is the senior policy advisor for the Procurement Policy and IT Procurement Branch (PPITPB), Management Board Secretariat (MBS). He said there are no secrets to getting government contracts and becoming a vendor of record (VOR); you just need to follow the rules.
The PPITPB is responsible for developing the government’s procurement policy framework, preparing requests for proposals and negotiating and managing government-wide contracts for information and information technology. The MBS is the ministry responsible for advising and carrying out the directions of Management Board of Cabinet — the committee of Cabinet which acts as manager of the government’s resources: people, money, technology, information and real estate.
Griggs said the government’s procurement policy is simple: no preference based on geography, all information pertaining to the job must be released, applicants must have their taxes in order, and the process must be fair and advertised widely and openly.
While the policy is simple, the process can be confusing. Griggs told the audience to be aware of the acronym soup and read the document carefully. For example, request for information (RFI) and request for expression of interest (RFEI) are different instruments, he said. But neither is used to screen vendors, nor are they a substitute for the competitive process, as far as the Ontario government is concerned.
“”I have seen procurement documents described as requests for information that are in fact used to pre-qualify. So you have to read very carefully what documents contain,”” said Griggs.
Similar confusion often centres around requests for qualification (RFQ). Griggs said people sometimes mistaken RFQs for request for quotation, which is a competition is solely based on price. The request for proposal (RFP) is the final phase, but suppliers were told to make sure their submission is sealed and in on time or it won’t be considered.
Griggs said the question he is asked the most is, ‘How do I become a vendor of record (VOR)?’ A VOR is a fixed contract, usually involving a number of companies, to provide ongoing acquisitions for common goods and services. He said the best way to become a VOR is to check out Merx, the Bank of Montreal-operated electronic tendering service.
Ross Hutchison of Hutchison Consulting Services said becoming a VOR is akin to getting a hunting licence: you can legally bag game, but you have to get out and do it. According to statistics from Public Sector research Inc. there is much game to be had.
Hutchison said the government IT market (products, services and staff) in 2000 was worth $6.67 billion: provinces and territories totaling $2.7 billion, the feds $3.9 billion. To get part of a growing market, he recommended vendors study the structure of the purchase hierarchy and determine who you need to sell to. He also said the big money is in big projects, so sell solutions to those looking for efficiencies and don’t be afraid to partner with bigger players.