The software trade has poured cold water over the government's plan to reuse old software licences.
Companies specialising in software licensing have urged the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) to let the private sector manage the reuse of old licences.
Their comments came as the negotiations between Microsoft and the OGC continue on a ground-breaking deal that would let the government departments pass on spare software licences to other parts of government.
Neil Murphy, managing director of Bytes, said, "The last thing you want is government tied up with the managers of software licences. It really should be a job for the partners."
"Who is going to manage that central pool of licences?" said Tim Dickens, sales director of Trustmarque, another leading Microsoft partner.
"I cannot see how the OGC thinks it might be able to do that. It clearly does not understand the complexities of licensing," he said.
But it supported the principle of software reuse, a central part of the OGC's plans for a government-wide Microsoft buying deal which will replace a similar arrangement that expired 18 months ago.
A source said a stop-gap agreement ran out yesterday, but talks are still locked over "last-minute legal issues".
Microsoft pressed the OGC to guarantee buying volumes.
The talks are said to be cordial but complicated and have now overrun the end of the last agreement by more than 18 months.
Microsoft confirmed the talks had overrun but was confident they would be concluded "shortly". The OGC refused to comment.