Govt. IT procurement: Some news is good news, association says

Barring an initial announcement from the Ministry of Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), little else has been reported about the federal government’s self-proposed restructuring of its IT procurement process.

But one industry observer will be glad to see any change at all.

“These consultations regarding procurement reform have been going on for years, and our industry is just happy to see reform coming,” said Bernard Courtois, president and CEO of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC). With its affiliates across the country, ITAC represents 1,300 companies in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry.

Last fall, PWGSC Minister Scott Brison announced public consultations with providers of information technology goods and services in Canada.

Industry associations such ITAC welcomed the announcement and the opportunity to participate in a process that was slated to run until December 2004 or as late as January, 2005.

The stated purpose of these consultations was to enable the government explore better, faster, and less costly service delivery options for acquisitions, real estate and information technology — the three principal PWGSC business lines.

But since then the government has made little ongoing information available about the procurement reforms. Brison’s office did not return a number of calls requesting comment.

Courtois said the feds did outline some procurement process changes at a February 21 meeting, which he attended.

“From the government’s perspective, they are looking at the results of the consultations category-by-category,” Courtois said. “If you are a player in a particular service area, you will find out directly from the government and its collateral Web sites…There won’t just be one press release announcing all the changes and recommendations.”

Ramifications for ITAC include possible resolutions to a number of its top priorities, including quicker purchase decisions when the government goes shopping for IT products.

A PWGSC statement released last November put government of Canada IT systems and infrastructure spending at $5 billion per year.

“Selling to the government can be a hard and slow process,” Courtois said. “The government has to become more knowledgeable. We want them to buy value and results.”

Courtois said ITAC expects the first of the changes to spending policy to start this spring.