Vic Govt calls for eServices feedback

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Vic Govt calls for eServices feedback

Industry reserves judgement on 'inclusive' model.

Victorian ICT industry members have reserved judgement on the state's draft technology procurement reforms, following the State Goverment's call for feedback on Friday.

The Coalition government last week unveiled an implementation plan for its e-services register, designed to replace more stringent e-services panel arrangements that came into force last year.

It welcomed industry comments on the plan until August 24.

Critics described the previous panel as too restrictive - IT companies found the process of qualifying for the panel difficult and opaque, while a number government departments were forced to seek exemptions when key suppliers were left off the list.

The new model allowed new suppliers to qualify at any time with no limit on the total number of approved suppliers.

Suzanne Campbell, chief executive of the Australian Information Industry Association, said the draft implementation plan showed the Victorian government had listened to the input of industry.

But many systems integrators, both large and small, were reluctant to comment publicly on the new plan when contacted by iTnews.

Laurence Baynham, group general manager of systems integrator Data #3, said: “In theory it sounds good but from our point of view we'll wait and see whether it's beneficial or not.”

He added that Data #3 was on the existing panel for some services but had no comment on how well the previous system worked.

Registration on the new portal is expected to commence in March next year, with a formal cut over in July.

Inside an 'inclusive' model

Existing e-services panel members would be transferred to the new register automatically, while less onerous conditions for new suppliers meant applications should take hours rather than days or weeks.

The State Government described the model as “inclusive”, noting that the new register would likely involve a significantly higher number of companies, with better opportunities for small and medium enterprises to win business.

It also expected the plan to provide departments with a wider range of choice and access to new and emerging companies.

"The reform will benefit both industry and government through delivering better value for money, greater efficiency and improved governance,” assistant treasurer and technology minister Gordon Rich-Phillips said.

“It aims to be more inclusive and transparent while streamlining the engagement process and reducing the time and effort of both buyer and supplier to achieve optimal results.”

Rich-Phillips said the plan was developed in close consultation with industry and was based on the recommendations of a working group made up of government and industry members.

According to the AIIA's Campbell, the association was “deeply involved” in the working party report released in April and the implementation report reflected that.

"The announcement was welcomed as a sign that the ICT industry would enjoy even greater engagement with the government and help to develop a procurement process that offers both greater efficacy and better outcomes for everyone involved,” Campbell said.

“It clearly shows that the government is focused on improving the efficiency of government procurement of ICT through making the procurement process much more transparent and driving down the costs to companies of winning government work.”

Campbell added that it was especially pleasing to see the Victorian government prepared to engage with SMEs, which she described as “pivotal” to the IT industry in Australia.

"The decision to abolish the limit on the number of businesses on the procurement register will open the door for SMEs and others, giving a major boost to many hard-working and productive Australian companies,” she said.

The plan required 12 State Government departments and agencies to source their IT arrangements via the register, with different levels of scrutiny required for jobs over $150,000 and over $1 million, but is not intended for general staffing requirements or to purchase software or hardware.

It would also be mandatory to report key data, with the aim of driving government-wide productivity gains through greater transparency about the life-cycle cost of services.

Rich-Phillips said the online tools would provide useful insights for both sides of the transaction.

“Buyers will have access to online tools to quickly identify the appropriate companies to engage and ICT suppliers will be provided with online tools to quickly identify opportunities where they can promote their skills and experience,” he said.

"This will provide business intelligence to all participants to avoid waste of time and resources and will ensure that the best skills and experience are applied in all ICT service engagements." 

To join the register, companies must apply online and provide evidence of relevant insurance and agree to sign a standard government contract.

Companies must also agree to independent verification of financial sustainability, with the assessment valid for three years, but this is only triggered if they are selected as the preferred supplier for a job.

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