The Federal Government has backed down from an ambitious plan to reduce over one hundred ICT supplier panels to four, instead announcing today that it would only "halve" the number of panels in operation across agencies.
Special Minister of State Gary Gray today announced that the number of panels would be halved over three years as more than 120 panels expire. Agencies will be asked to stick to a maximum of three IT services panels per portfolio to maintain a competitive market.
The Government feels that this will provide the IT industry with sufficient tender opportunities while retaining the required autonomy for portfolios.
The announcement represents a major retreat from the bold panel reductions envisaged a year ago in AGIMO’s whole of Government ICT services panel, known as WISP. At the time there were 87 ICT panels to consolidate, in the 12 months since this has blown out to 120.
Minister Gray promised the plan would nonetheless reduce the administrative overheads incurred by agencies in establishing their own panels and also reduce the burden for the IT industry in terms of the number of panels it needs to aim for.
Issues raised by the WISP outcome
The announcement was short on detail when it came to committing the Government to any deliverables.
No estimates of procurement savings were provided in the release.
Also left in the air were proposals for reverse auctions and entry fees that had troubled local ICT suppliers.
Nor is it clear how the proposed rate of reduction might streamline the red tape that IT suppliers need to undertake to be considered for the panels.
The Minister’s statement said that inclusion of a mandatory multi-agency access clause (known as 'piggybacking') in recent IT services panels has already simplified procurement for agencies and improved access to Australian Government agencies for suppliers.
“Over time, suppliers will be able to access all Australian Government agencies by successfully tendering for only one of the new IT services panels," the Minister said during today's announcement.
No timeline or deadline was set for this change.
AGIMO will continue to provide support and advice to all Australian Government agencies on all ICT procurement matters, Gray said.
Existing IT Services panels will continue until they are due to expire.
This means, for example, that a panel recently announced by the Department of Finance and Deregulation for services including ICT is set to continue for at least the next three years.
Ovum public sector research director Kevin Noonan said he felt it was a "very moderate ask" for agencies to allow their current requirements to lapse over the next three years.
"The challenge will be to understand the details and whether the figure of three panels per portfolio is intended as an average or a maximum for each", Noonan told iTnews.
He said the mandatory of inclusion piggybacking was a good move and would reduce the workload of both suppliers and agencies.
"The main challenge will be to ensure that its implementation will not set back the deals made with small and medium enterprise suppliers," he added.