When the Victorian Government cut the membership of its whole of government eServices Panel by 65 members in May, one of the key indictments against it was a concern that the narrowed vendor base would fail to meet the requirements of a diverse Victorian public sector.
Since the new panel came into effect on 1 July, the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF) has granted 16 exemptions to nine different agencies, allowing them to procure from vendors not included on the panel on a one-off basis.
To date, not one agency application for exemption has been rejected.
The DTF, which is the lead agency for the eServices Panel, says that this flaw in the panel’s composition should be addressed by a panel refresh announced in July, which is expected to reinvigorate the panel’s numbers.
“The Department of Treasury and Finance expects the pace of exemptions to slow considerably once the broader panel is in place. The refresh process will be completed by 31 October,” a spokesperson for the DTF told Intermedium.
Industry and political pressure is widely regarded as having pushed the Victorian Government to reconsider its position on the cull of eServices panellists.
Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips announced on 14 July that the panel’s composition would be reviewed once again this coming October, with an eye to including more suppliers into the lucrative IT Services market.
He said that it was apparent that there was a need for a broader panel to meet the full width and breadth of the Victorian Government’s requirements.
“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 July statement.
While use of the eServices panel is mandatory for Victorian agencies which fall into the ‘inner government’ category, if an agency feels that its needs cannot be met by the 188 member panel it can apply for an exemption from the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF).
According to the Victorian Government’s State Purchase Contracts (SPC) exemptions form, exemptions can be granted for:
- Existing contractual arrangements for the same or similar goods and services
- Functional, technical, logistic and/or geographic requirements that cannot be covered by the SPC
- Better value for money alternative, including lower cost, risk and complexity.
Exceptions to a mandated SPC can also arise when goods and services are required outside of the metropolitan area of Victoria and the supplier isn’t able to service regional areas.
The applicant agencies have decided to procure from the following companies in preference to members of the eServices Panel:
- e-Centric Innovations
- Dynamic Equilibrium
- The Nous Group
- Obsidian Software
- Pure Hacking
- Ipsec Oracle
- Infinite Tech Solutions
- Aixom EPM
The reasons behind these exemptions are likely to inform the October refresh, giving these 14 suppliers a head start when it comes to winning a place of the panel.
Of the 16 exemptions already granted, three have been for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD), three have been for the Department of Justice, and three for the Department of Health, plus others.