Dutch MPs fight Microsoft deal

MPs in the Netherlands are unhappy that their government is considering making a €147m deal with Microsoft
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor
A row has broken out in the Netherlands over a government proposal to install Microsoft software on 245,000 desktop computers.

The potential contract, which would run for five years and be worth €147m, has been questioned by several Dutch MPs who say it contravenes the Dutch government's policy on open-source software. It also appears to have been awarded without the Dutch government offering it for public tender, Dutch magazine Webwereld reported last week.

MPs from three opposition parties and from one of the three parties in Holland's coalition government are unhappy about the deal and are reported to have questioned three ministers about the deal.

A Microsoft spokesman confirmed that Microsoft is currently in negotiation with the Dutch government, but was unable to give any further details on the deal. He said that the ministers are expected to answer the questions by Thursday this week.

The Dutch government is a coalition between three parties -- the Christian Democrats, the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and a small Democrat party (D66). MPs from D66, the Labour, Green and Socialist parties (PvdA, Groen Links and SP) reportedly questioned the ministers of defence, home affairs and justice about the potential deal.

The MPs asked how this deal could be in agreement with the parliament's previous decision to move the whole government to open source and open standards by 2006. This decision, initially proposed in a motion by Green Party MP Kees Vendrik, was unanimously passed by the Dutch parliament in 2002.

The ministers were also asked whether the government had released a public tender for this contract, which is a requirement for projects that cost €236,000 or more.

Since the initial protest from MPs, a number of organisations including the Dutch Linux Users Group and OpenOffice.org have sent a signed letter to the Dutch prime minister and finance minister stating that the Microsoft contract will have a negative impact on the software market in the Netherlands. Web site Slashdot has published an English translation of this letter.

This is the latest in a string of Microsoft government deals to evoke controversy. Its reported $3.6m contract to supply Beijing's municipal government was later cancelled. When Microsoft won a £500m NHS contract, numerous ZDNet UK readers criticised the government for its decision.

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