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SPIRIT to help level the playing field on tenders

THE State Government’s official launch of its SPIRIT program in early October will be welcomed by the local technology industry.

SPIRIT – Strategic Partnering in Resourcing Information Technology – actually came into effect in July, and replaces the Government’s two primary ICT contracts with Computer Sciences Corporation, the BDMW and BIPAC.

Instead of relying mainly on one firm, government departments are now able to procure goods and services in information and communications technology from, in theory, virtually any business in the State.

According to the Department of Industry and Technology’s (DoIT) Baseline Report on Government Procurement of ICT in WA, released in September 2001, SPIRIT is intended to eliminate the duplication, repetition and inconsistency found in the government purchasing process. It will also avoid unnecessary expenditure by encouraging collaboration and more efficient use of capital and human resources.

The BIPAC contract ended earlier this year and the BDMW contract, which last financial year was worth about $30 million, expires in December this year.

A DoIT spokesman said the agencies involved with BDMW had started to approach the market to replace the services they currently acquire under the BDMW contract.

The WA Police Service, for example, recently launched its tender request for the provision of ICT services, and other agencies are likely to act by the end of October.

Managers at IT firms contacted by WA Business News are generally happy with the SPIRIT concept, suggesting that, other than for some minor teething problems, the program will encourage industry development in WA.

All companies that want to supply products or services to any government agencies have to register to participate in SPIRIT.

This means, according to IBC managing director Richard Keeves, that when companies receive a request from government departments to tender for a specific job, those companies know the work involved in preparing the tender will be worthwhile.

“SPIRIT is, I think, an innovative and very worthwhile approach to government purchasing that allows efficiencies to be gained by government as well as by suppliers and prospective suppliers because government is not having to go through an outdated, ineffective process of tendering for work that may bring in 10 times the number of responses that are able to be effectively managed,” Mr Keeves said.

“From our point of view as a prospective supplier to government, we are very much more interested in putting time and effort and resources into a tender or request for quotation if the odds are more in our favour.”

Despite agreeing with the obvious conclusion that CSC will inevitably lose business to other firms because of SPIRIT, the company’s WA leader Bruce Dinsdale welcomed the new program and expressed CSC’s support for it.

“There’s a place for everybody to play, and we’re happy about that,” Mr Dinsdale said.

“It should not disadvantage multinationals just as it should not disadvantage local players from participating in the process.”

He said CSC may or may not lose a lot of its business.

“Obviously it’s a concern; we employ a lot of West Australian people, and my first concern is always for our staff. We’ll compete hard for the business and reality says we might pick up some business that we don’t have right now, which would be really nice,” Mr Dinsdale said.

The broader assessment of SPIRIT is not completely rosy, however. One industry source suggested a cynic might regard the program as a means for DoIT to ensure its own survival in the face of both internal and external pressures.

Vendors have been forced to spend hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of dollars to register themselves for SPIRIT, with no tangible benefit yet forthcoming.

SPIRIT was released before the program was fully prepared – guidelines, forms and templates were not immediately available, causing government departments to delay their tender launches, the source said.

This had a flow-on effect to small businesses that were substantially dependent on government contracts, in some cases causing cash flow problems.

“Hopefully we can smooth over these teething problems,” the source said.

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