The Cabinet Office has found it so difficult to find a fair way to manage suppliers through the proposed G-Cloud programme that it has cut back its scope and plans to develop it in agile-style iterations.
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The first task will involve the launch of a £2m procurement framework for a pilot G-Cloud, managed by the Government Procurement Service (GPS). The framework will be one of at least 26 for procuring IT totalling £4.5bn between 2012 and 2016. Civil servants promised additional frameworks for SMEs and for agile software suppliers.
David Shields, managing director of the Government Procurement Service, told suppliers in meeting on Monday that GPS was "trying to be more dynamic" and explained how it was proving difficult.
"We are struggling with the commercial model, the terms and conditions and how to get this past EU regulators," said Shields of the G-Cloud.
"I said to key stakeholders, 'I don't know how this is going to work'. So we agreed with [G-Cloud programme director] Chris Chant to do it in an iterative process. It's a less than perfect procurement by any stretch of the imagination. It wasn't very comfortable for the legal teams. I'm sure we've got things wrong.”
Reform of government procurement involved "challenging internal governance processes" Shields told a meeting of agile suppliers itching to see government procurement reformed.
Some of those internal processes were "quite stringent", he said: "Some of them you can't influence."
A variety of senior civil servants including John Collington, the government's chief procurement officer, told a conference of more than 700 mainly IT industry suppliers on Monday they were reforming procurement to be more flexible and collaborative and implored suppliers to do the same.
Shaun Davey, CEO of IPL, a security and defence software supplier, told Shield's side-meeting: "Agile isn't a panacea. My reading around the subject has persuaded me there are some significant barriers to the use of agile in government."
He cited the same problems identified controversially in Computer Weekly by Alistair Maughan, a lawyer, and said those would remain without procurement reform.
"How do you procure in an agile fashion?" he asked. "How do you procure the indefinite? I can't think of many things more alien than the public sector culture I've grown to be used to."