Toronto issues RFP for tech upgrade

The City of Toronto is currently considering bids from IT suppliers to replace the computers that caused a public scandal as a result of a leasing arrangement gone wrong.

The deal between the city and Mississauga, Ont.-based MFP Financial Services came under scrutiny in 2001 when an auditor’s

report revealed the city had laid out almost twice the original council-approved expenditure of $43 million for the leased computers. A public inquiry, which began in December 2002, is scheduled to resume on Aug. 30.

In March, the city issued a report recommending that it not pay more than $83.5 million to replace the leased machines.

An estimated $20.44 million of that has been earmarked to pay for the remainder of the MFP leases.

According to the report, the city will replace approximately 15,400 desktop computers and 570 servers, and move from a Microsoft NT to Microsoft XP. Also slated are upgraded productivity tools, the development of an integrated asset management system, and related services to install and oversee the migration.

The city posted an RFP (request for proposal) on its Web site on July 13 with a deadline for questions on July 23 and a closing date of July 28.

The leasing agreement with MFP is scheduled to terminate on March 31, 2005.

According to John Davies, executive director of corporate information and technology, Tor-onto aims to get council approval for the transition in September and is planning on for a rollout towards the end of this year.

He said bids from resellers, vendors and integrators will be considered, and the city will move from a leasing model to ownership of the technology.

The city requires the upgrade not only because its lease term with MFP is nearing conclusion but because of the age of those machines and the fact that Microsoft will no longer support NT operating systems beyond 2004. “”Most of the equipment is five years old already,”” Davies said.

The Commission Counsel for the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry retained Assetlinx Corp. in July 2003 to prepare a report outlining the city’s options.

Assetlinx concluded that most of the leased assets were past their useful lifecycle and identified a risk associated with running city systems on outdated equipment.

There have not been any significant problems to date with the city’s IT, Davies said.

“”We were mindful of running technology that no longer has official support,”” he said. “”There are some risks associated with that (but) we have not had any problems.

He acknowledged, however, that memory and processor speed in current machines is not sufficient to run current applications at optimum efficiency.

Once a supplier has been selected to provide and install the new computers and servers, the city will handle the maintenance and service for the equipment on an ongoing basis, Davies said.

There are approximately 325 IT professionals working for the city, not including services such as the police and Toronto Transit Commission, which handle their own IT.

Howard Grant a principal with Partnering and Procurement Inc., said he was surprised the government had not taken extra steps to insure this latest RFP was conducted with more transparency on light of the MFP scandal.

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