For the first time since it was established in 2003, the Victorian Government eServices Panel will become mandatory for use by all Budget Sector Agencies within the state. This brings it into line with its NSW equivalent, the Contract 2020 Panel for ICT Services and the proposed Federal Government Whole-of-Government IT Services Panel (WISP), although the latter does allow for certain key agencies to form their own application services panels.
The move signals an acknowledgement across jurisdictions that panel arrangements need to be mandated if they are to create efficient procurement processes which drive down cost.
Tenders for entry to the new eServices panel opened on 23 February and the lead agency for the procurement, the Government Services Division (GSD) within the Department of Treasury and Finance, emphasised that former panel members would have to submit new tenders in order to be considered for the renewed agreement. The new panel will come into effect on 1 July 2011.
In Victoria, all procurements valued at over $150,000 have to be put to the open market through an open or selective tendering process. The eServices panel will conform to these requirements as the current approach to the open market to decide membership should qualify as a selective tender.
In a significant departure from the previous panel arrangement, the spend limit of $1 million per engagement has been eliminated, and there will be no upper limit for the value of contracts that can be transacted through the new panel.
Interested vendors have the option of submitting a tender for as many of the 17 service categories as they wish, above a minimum of one. The services categories fall under six key service categories which will be covered by the panel, including Management, Strategy and Analysis, Architecture and Design, Systems and Solutions, Web Hosting and Training.
Tenderers are also asked to nominate a speciality and areas of expertise to further assist the categorisation of services offered for the benefit of purchasing agencies.
This categorisation schema is likely to be adopted at the Federal level. The Australian Government Information Office (AGIMO) proposed that the Victorian categories serve as a model for the proposed Whole of Government IT Services Panel (WISP) when they released a discussion paper on the topic in December 2010.
The proposed WISP and the eServices Panel also share a reporting provision that requires purchasing agencies to provide feedback on suppliers after each engagement, resulting in a system of performance ratings which would inform other agencies when they approached the panel to negotiate their own contracts.
The existing panel lists a total of 254 suppliers, which is smaller than the 320 currently included on the NSW 2020 Panel.
It has been suggested that these panels will nurture innovation and SME participation in the government ICT markets.
However Intermedium’s survey of NSW 2020 panellists suggests 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, leaving many panellists no better off.
This is the second time that the eServices Panel has been renewed since its establishment in 2003, with its first three year lifecycle covering the period to 30 June 2007. The 2007 renewal expires at the end of this financial year, and the new arrangement will also last for three years, with the GSD reserving the option to conduct periodic refreshes.
Tenders for the latest renewal close on 31 March 2011.