The Victorian Government is to overhaul the way it procures information technology and communications (ICT) products and services through working with ICT suppliers to create a new whole-of-government eServices Register.
The register, the major recommendation of the eServices Government and Industry Working Party Report (PDF) into reforming government procurement, replaces the current, and flawed, eServices Panel.
According to the report, the existing panel procurement arrangements, in place since 2003, have been subject to criticism from the Government's own procurement and economic development agencies about a lack of value for money, and effectiveness in enabling smaller providers to tender for government business.
In addition, the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF) identified other shortcomings, such as a lack of visibility and transparency, incomplete expenditure reporting, lengthy tender processes, and poor evaluation of life cycle costs and benefits. Further, the DTF reported concerns that the panel was being under-utilisied with some 33 per cent of panel members not logging engagements under the panel from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2010, according to the report.
"From an economic development perspective, there have been ongoing issues related to the complexity and time consuming nature of the application process which small and medium sized companies claim have deterred them from applying for a position on the Panel," the report reads.
"Further, some companies who have been through the application process claim the effort was disproportionate to the benefit gained from being on the Panel."
A subsequent new mandatory eServices tender process, completed in June 2011 and aimed at addressing these issues, resulted in push-back from industry. Issues raised include difficulties with the application form; ineffective industry communication, consultation and feedback; a lack of clarity and consistency around the evaluation process, selection criteria and category allocation; and insufficient recognition of track record in delivery to government.
"The Government decided that the overall objectives of the Panel would be better served by a broader panel membership, prompting the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Technology to call for a refresh, and to establish the eServices Government and Industry Working Party to review options to improve ICT services procurement in future," the report reads.
According to the Industry Working Party, an eServices Register model -- in contrast to the concerns with the existing panel process and the failed 2011 reforms -- would "provide a more effective mechanism for the Government's procurement of ICT services", the report reads.
"It would provide a simple, timely and efficient process through which government clients could access a wide range of ICT services suppliers and capabilities with the confidence that they are financially sound, with information on past performance and supported by standard contractual arrangements," the report reads.
"From an economic development perspective this mechanism may be effective in facilitating visibility of the broadest possible range of companies and capabilities while leaving the assessment of value for money with those best placed to make that assessment, the department clients.
"Greater visibility for local SMEs carries the further significant advantage of increasing opportunities for local companies to gain valuable reference sites in their home market."
In a statement following the release of the report, Victorian Assistant Treasurer, Gordon Rich-Phillips, said the Coalition Government had accepted the preferred option of the working party report and would consult with industry on how to best implement the register.
"The Coalition Government will consider the report's full recommendations and work with industry to transition from the current panel arrangement to a proposed register," Rich-Phillips said.
"Current suppliers will be automatically eligible to join the new eServices Register when it is implemented over the next year."