E-government deadlines slip as new trials are launched

The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has extended a major online buying initiative trial because of security fears; and...

The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has extended a major online buying initiative trial because of security fears; and awarded seven contracts for pilot e-commerce schemes.

The moves highlight how far the government has slipped behind the bold target set in the 1999 Modernising Government white paper, which said that 90% of government procurement should be electronic by 2005.

The OGC is extending the trial of the TenderTrust e-tendering system until the end of February. The service, which uses digital certificates and smart cards, has received formal government security accreditation.

However, Treasury secretary Andrew Smith told parliament: "The evidence from the pilot shows that further work is needed to maintain the right level of security and increase take-up of services across government.

As a result of these security fears the Treasury has pushed back it s target of sending and receiving 100% of tenders electronically by the end of 2002.

When the trial was launched last summer, the OGC said that if the system was successful it could reduce suppliers' tendering costs by £37m and produce savings in the region of £13m for the taxpayer.

Despite the delay Roger Till, director external affairs at the e.centre, the business-to-business user association, told CW360.com: "The OGC is doing some sensible things with TenderTrust." He also highlighted efforts to open government contracts to small businesses.

The OGC has also launched a series of e-procurement trials. The National Assembly of Wales will be the test bed for a solution developed by Accenture with Ariba and Epylon

The Driving Standards Agency, Department of Trade and Industry and the Food Standards Agency will pilot a system from e-procurement specialist Biomni while Ernst & Young and Elcom are trialling a solution at the Environment Agency.

Parry Jenkins, partner at Accenture, told CW360.com that the aim of the trials was to build up a body of experience before the OGC rolled out national solutions.

He also said that public sector bodies had different aims than commercial organisations when instituting e-procurement.

"E-procurement is usually sold as a way to get control of your purchasing processes so that you can do the right business with the right suppliers at the right price.

"In the public sector it is not simply about reducing the number of suppliers, but it is about opening up contracts to local business and SMEs."

The OGC will publish its evaluation of the e-procurement trials at the end of July.

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