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

by Kristen Hammond •
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In the past five years State and Federal governments have almost universally implemented Whole-of-Government (WofG) Panels to meet their ICT Services needs.

New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia all have ICT Services Panel arrangements in place, while Queensland and the Federal Government are currently in the process of implementing similar plans of their own.    

This trend is driven by governments searching for greater efficiency and cost reduction. Governments cite increased administrative efficiency for agencies and greater opportunities for local small to medium enterprises (SME’s) to enter the market as key benefits of such ICT Services Panel arrangements.

South Australia was the first state to introduce a WofG ICT Services panel, establishing the eProjects Panel in 2006. The Panel allows pre-qualified vendors to respond to requests for quotes from agencies procuring ICT project-based services up to $700,000. While use of the eProjects Panel is not mandatory, 23 South Australian government agencies were using the 184 vendor-strong Panel at the time of publication of their last newsletter in April 2010.

Membership of SA’s ICT Services Panel is updated through a standing request for tender (RFT), allowing potential suppliers to bid to join the panel at any time. The panel includes big names in Australian Government ICT procurement, with ASG Group Ltd, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Fujitsu Australia Ltd, IBM Australia Ltd and Optus all listed as vendors.   

Victoria established their WofG eServices Panel in mid-2007 in order to increase the Victorian Government’s efficiency in engaging ICT suppliers. According to the eServices Panel’s website, the current head agreement will expire in June 2011. A public RFT will be published early in the year, though this is currently on hold as the new Coalition government is briefed on the project. Unlike WA, this RFT will not be merely a refresh of the current system, but rather a comprehensive overhaul in which all current service providers will be required to re-tender in order to be included.

NSW established its ICT services panel arrangements in 2009. According to NSW Buy the ‘2020 Panel’ is the largest ICT services contract ever released in the NSW Public Sector and includes more than 300 suppliers in more than 30 categories of ICT services. The panel is scheduled to run from 1 March 2009 until 28 February 2012.

WA has recently embarked on their sixth review of their Common Use Agreement (CUA) for the provision of ICT Services, which has been in place since September 2009. The refresh, according to RFT documentation, is to allow new suppliers to join the panel and existing vendors to bid for alternate categories.

Following the trends of other states, Queensland elected to pursue the WofG ICT Services panel route in mid-2010. Shortly after issuing their widely criticised ICT Contractors Panel, the Chief Procurement Office released a forward procurement schedule announcing that they would be ‘rationalising’ how they purchased ICT services.

‘The goals of this review are to ensure that government agencies achieve best value for money when engaging ICT services and to promote the development of the Queensland ICT industry’, the procurement schedule states.

A spokesperson from the Queensland Chief Procurement Office told Intermedium that the ICT Services Panel was still in planning, while the controversial ICT Contractors arrangement had moved into the evaluation stage. The spokesperson could not confirm when either of the panels would become operational.

The ICT Services Panel model has been adopted by the Federal Government, with the Department of Finance and Deregulation releasing a planned procurement for the establishment of a WofG ICT Services (WISP) Panel. The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) floated the idea as a discussion paper on their blog in December 2010.  The categories of supply for the proposed panel have been taken from the Victorian Panel, according to the discussion paper.

As Intermedium Managing Director Judy Hurditch noted after the announcement, introducing the WISP model will undoubtedly be one of the most far-reaching WofG Gershon savings initiatives in terms of the number of suppliers it affects.

While the logistics of the WISP arrangement will be unclear until the release of the planned procurement in Quarter 4 this financial year, Ms. Hurditch believes that the significance of this major, structural change to the ICT purchasing market in Canberra must not be underestimated.

Intermedium’s Market Overview Report indicates that Federal ICT Services contracts were worth $2.45 billion in 2009-10.

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