How can you help shorten the slump? 1) Smarter Public Procurement

Reviews and postponements of big public sector ICT projects are politically popular but are now hitting industry cash flows hard. When spend restarts ministers will almost certainly wish to follow private sector good practice with incremental, rapid payback projects within strategic frameworks. You can help shorten the transition period.

There is serious confusion as to what is legal in this area, let alone what is good practice: for example with regard to organising low cost, innovative, socially inclusive, service delivery in co-operation with voluntary organisations and charities.

There is, however, much guidance already available, including from the Audit Commission, Digital Inclusion Team, Intellect, the National Audit Office, the Office of Government Commerce and SOCITM. But this is, too often, not brought to the attention of those who persist in following decades old, slow, high overhead, procedures, in the belief they are following Treasury/European “rules”.

EURIM (the Information Society Alliance), is therefore organising a call for existing guidance to be rapidly reviewed, rationalised as necessary, and promoted.

Please e-mail me c/o if you would like to join the exercise.

Please include details of existing material that you think is good. Please also comment on any obstacles that need to be removed. It would be most helpful if you could indicate which problems you think need legislation and which can be addressed by better guidance on the alternatives that are already available.

The exercise is also likely to include a call for radical contract simplification, copying private sector “effective disputes resolution” clauses instead of trying to predict the unpredictable: so that what funds are available can be devoted to working together to overcome problems rather than bankrupting all sides.

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Count me in.

I vividly remember a session at the Third Global Forum, in Naples in 2001, where this subject was discussed and in which I pointed out that EU/GATT contract rules were one of the biggest obstacles to better public sector ICT systems procurement.

Yet, strangely, the session, chaired someone from the e-Envoy's office, failed to incorporate my concerns into the pre-written communique...

Accordingly to Patrick Dunleavy's book "Digital Era Governance", the country that has got this right is the Netherlands and they seem to have managed it despite the EU rules, primarily by maintaining a high level of in-house skills within government and letting numerous small contracts instead of the "accident waiting to happen" monster contracts that predominate here in the UK.

Those of you who have read the book will also know that the UK is categorised as the worst country for the quality of public sector ICT procurements and the interesting hypothesis advanced to explain this situation...