Tendering is due to open within the coming fortnight for Queensland’s first whole-of-government ICT services panel.
A spokesperson for the Queensland Government Chief Procurement Office (QGCPO) has confirmed that the panel will be mandatory for use by the State’s Government agencies.
The establishment of a central ICT services arrangement in Queensland has been a long time coming, with consultation reported to date back to March 2010.
Industry was first briefed on the Queensland Government’s intention to set up the whole-of-government panel back in October 2011, but plans were put on hold to make way for the March 2012 election and subsequent change of government.
Since then, the future of the panel has hinged on the findings of a state-wide ICT audit launched by the Newman Government and lead by Government CIO Peter Grant. The audit was due to be completed in October 2012 but its findings are yet to be made public.
A serious hunt to find budget savings is underway right across the debt-ridden Queensland Government at present, and the rationale behind giving the ICT services panel the green light appears to be price efficiency as well as enabling better monitoring of agency ICT expenditure.
The panel’s objectives, as listed by the QGCPO forward procurement notice, are to:
- “Realise potential whole-of-government savings through streamlining and standardising the procurement of ICT services;
- Provide small to medium enterprises with the opportunity to compete for government contracts for ICT services; and
- Generate useful whole-of-government baseline data with respect to the procurement of ICT services.”
Under the original plan outlined in late October price was not intended as criteria for inclusion on the ICT services panel, and the QGCPO confirmed back in December 2011 that it did not intend to ask for any price commitments during an Invitation to Offer (ITO) process.
The original plan also envisioned a panel arrangement that would be limited to contracts under $10 million, that would be based on a 12 month refresh cycle and that would have categories of service based on the Skills For the Information Age (SFIA) model. It is unknown at this stage how closely the soon-to-be-established panel will adhere to these parameters.
By opting to press ahead with its panel plan, the Queensland Government has bucked a significant trend emerging across the eastern seaboard, which has seen fixed term and fixed member ICT services panels become increasingly out of vogue with public administrators.
Closed panel arrangements have long been viewed by the ICT industry as overly complex to join, and many still don’t win work despite the effort invested in a tender process. They are also viewed as prohibitive to SMEs.
After toying with the idea of a whole-of-government IT Services Panel for more than a year, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) decided in December 2011 to instead cap the number of agency-based IT services panels allowed in each Federal Government portfolio and to mandate multi-agency access instead.
Within a fortnight of each other, in June 2012, NSW and Victoria announced plans to reform their long-running whole-of-government ICT services panels to make them easier to join. Both arrangements will be made continuously open to applications for inclusion, with the membership criteria simplified to include minimum criteria for service viability, with the aim of enhancing SME participation.
The changes to Victoria’s eServices panel are due to come into effect in July 2013, with applications to open in March 2013. The changes to NSW’s State Contract 2020 for IT services are due to come into effect in March 2013.
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