New rules will ease SMB bids for Govt deals

Competing for government contracts will soon be faster and easier for small businesses as the result of new measures announced recently by Scott Brison, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC).

The announcement, made on November 25th, introduced interim steps slated to begin on December 15th.

The initiative was a response to concerns raised by the SME sector, through a number of workshops held across the country with senior government officials, according to Marshall Moffat, director general of the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises (OSME).

“One of the issues that was most urgent in (the SME’s) mind was…to ensure they would have continued access to compete for government business,” Moffat said.

As of December 15th, SMEs can deal directly with government departments, whereas before, these departments were restricted to hiring firms on the standing offer list.

A standing offer is a pre-qualification mechanism that requires companies to indicate why they’re qualified to do business in a certain area, and there is often a price competition aspect as well. Some companies, particularly small and medium enterprises, were not on these lists.

Concerns regarding the standing offer list were also raised as a result of an earlier decision that made standing offers mandatory. Moffat said SME’s, which used to deal directly with government departments, were “caught flat-footed by this decision.”

“It’s a transitional issue that has occurred, which caused some companies to have difficulty doing business with the government,” Moffat said. “We’ve corrected it. Now government departments can get access to these suppliers.”

With the new initiative, smaller companies can register under a mandatory supply vehicle so they can instantly get on the standing offer list, without having to wait for “up to a year or longer until the term of the standing offer comes up,” said Moffat.

The Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) has taken a “cautiously positive” stance on the announcement.

“I say that because it was announced on a Friday (as) we’re heading into an election, and in procurement there’s a very complex process available, so (we’re) viewing it generally in a positive light,” said ITAC president and CEO Bernard Courtois. “We’ll want to see things happening…but it remains to be seen.”

Moffat, on the other hand, sees this as a win-win situation for all involved.

“It’s good for the companies and the industry because they’re better able to understand our needs and to participate in competing,” he said. “It’s better for us because we get better service, a better overall price, and it’s better for taxpayers. I don’t think there are really any losers here.”

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