Letter to ITBusiness.ca Re: proposed changes to government procurement policy

The following letter was sent in reply to CATA appoints government relations exec to take on procurement.

CATA is dealing with problems that are similar to those experienced by Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) companies. The government wants to skip intermediaries when procuring products that originate from a single source, but seem to forget the value added by these intermediaries. What ends up happening is that if the single source is a vendor that also offers related services that the government is effectively bypassing procurement policy intended to protect competition.

What is needed is for the government to separate the pricing and procurement of the source product from the various value-add services. If there is a local integrator of a specific brand of products then it might make sense for the government to source the product from the main supplier, but it does not at all make sense to exclude the local integrator in the competition for related services.

In the case of FLOSS, we are in the business of adding value to software which all our customers, including the government, already has free access to. The procurement cost of the "source product" is zero, and all the money in this commercial marketplace is made by value-add intermediaries. If the government tries to find suppliers for the "source product" that excludes the value-add services they find nobody able to reply given there are costs to reply to the RFP that cannot be recovered without the government hiring the value-add service.

My hope is that CLUE, The Canadian Association for Open Source, and CATA will be able to work together on this problem such that the solution will benefit all our members.

Russell McOrmond
Policy Coordinator for CLUE