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IT Services Panels: the elusive WISP re-emerges and Victoria bows to industry pressure

by Paris Cowan •
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The Department of Finance and Deregulation has confirmed that the establishment of a whole-of-government ICT services panel (WISP) is still on the agenda, by re-listing the proposed panel in its 2011-12 Procurement Plans.

The Department has indicated that it intends to approach the market for the panel sometime in Quarter Three, or between January and March 2012. The WISP was originally listed in the 2010-11 Procurement Plans to go to market in Quarter Four of that financial year.

However, as Intermedium reported in June, the final shape and size of the WISP is no clearer than when it was first floated by the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) in December 2010.

A spokesperson for AGIMO told Intermedium that that the procurement is intended to be for an ICT services panel with multi-agency access, but that AGIMO is still open to other alternatives.

“AGIMO explored the WISP arrangement as a ‘straw man’ in a discussion paper late last year.  This activity provoked much discussion and we gained useful insights.  As a result, we are now exploring the workable options for the reduction of the number of ICT services panels, while also exploring ways to make the procurement of ICT services more efficient and effective.”

“These options will be considered and AGIMO will communicate the outcome once it has been finalised later this year,” she said.

One of the conundrums facing AGIMO will be how to achieve the most effective size for the panel.

It will have to balance the achievement of a manageable list of vendors with the maintenance of competition and equity within the government’s IT services market, a market which Intermedium’s  ICT contracts data suggests was worth well over $4 billion in 2010-11.

It is a fine balance that the Victorian Government found itself having to re-address in the past few days.

The State’s Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips announced that the 65 IT Services suppliers who lost their place on the whole-of-government panel in May 2011 will now have a second chance opportunity to re-tender for membership.

The reduction of the panel’s membership from 253 to 188 generated a backlash from the ICT industry and the Victorian opposition, who argued that it was shutting a large proportion of the ICT industry out of the lucrative government ICT market and stifling competition.

The Minister seems to have taken this on board, now agreeing that the panel’s reduced proportions were unworkable.

“Companies will have another opportunity to secure a place on the panel, which will result in greater choice and competition for departments as well as improved access for more small and medium enterprises to government business opportunities," he said in a media release.

Neither do ICT Services panels show any signs of shrinking in New South Wales.

As of June 2011, the State’s Contract 2020 IT Services Panel has expanded beyond its already mammoth starting size of 308 in 2009.

The latest list, published 6 June 2011contains 318 suppliers, down two from 29 November 2010. Since November 2010, the following four suppliers have lost their place on the panel:

  1. Advitech Pty Limited
  2. Canobolas Country Communications
  3. Fulton Technology
  4. Sonnet Enterprise Services

In the same period two suppliers have been added to the list:

  1. Sheltrab Pty Ltd
  2. Space-Time Research

While this liberal panel composition keeps the NSW ICT industry onside, a survey of 2020 panellists conducted by Intermedium in 2010 suggested that agencies are likely to continue to procure from vendors they have used previously and who have a proven track record, rather than use an unknown supplier, meaning many panellists were no better off as a result of their inclusion.

In Canberra, the Department of Defence (Defence) is pursuing an alternative model for their Applications Managed Services Panel Arrangement (AMSPA), which may present a solution for balancing the interests of equitable industry access and supplier management.

Documents attached to a Request for Tender (RFT) released in April showed that Defence was looking to engage an unspecified number of preferred industry partners (PIPs) to form the panel. These PIPs would act as a single point of contact and accountability for Defence, providing an end-to-end solution through the management of sub-contractors.

Previous approaches to the market for the IT Services Panel indicted that Defence was looking to engage five PIPs – who would then manage any number of secondary vendors.

For more information on the 2011-12 agency Procurement Plans, and what opportunities they might offer for your business, register your place at Intermedium’sannual Federal Government ICT Procurement briefing, The Year Ahead.


Related Articles:

New eServices Panel will be mandatory for Victorian Departments

AGIMO forges ahead with whole of government panels...but still no WISP

Whole-of-Govt ICT Services Panels in Vogue Across the Nation

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  • Federal
  • IT Services
  • Treasury
  • Agency Procurement Plans
  • Gordon Rich-Phillips
  • NSW 2020 Panel
  • Sheltrab
  • Space-Time Research
  • Victorian eServices Panel
  • WISP