SA government to streamline tender process for SMEs

The South Australian government is moving to streamline its procurement processes for information and communications technology (ICT) to reduce the high opportunity cost of bidding for government contracts, especially for small to medium enterprises (SME)s. The move includes changes to intellectual property rulings, liability capping and insurance requirements.

The South Australian government is moving to streamline its procurement processes for information and communications technology (ICT) to reduce the high opportunity cost of bidding for government contracts, especially for small to medium enterprises (SME)s.

The move includes changes to intellectual property rulings, liability capping and insurance requirements.

Grantly Mailes, South Australia's chief information officer (CIO), said that a new eProjects Panel, due to begin in the second quarter, would also cut the time taken for smaller companies to apply for projects valued up to AU$750,000.

Responding to tenders can take a week or more out of the business for a small business managing director, who is usually also the business owner.

Mailes said that the idea of the e-marketplace is that all government agencies and enterprises would be able to request a quote from companies registered on the eProjects Panel.

"The agencies can go to the panel, and, based on dollar value, require two or three written quotes to get the jobs done," he said.

"We will already have on record each vendor's skills and capabilities, key personnel and financial and insurance status to assist agencies in vendor selection."

Agencies will be able to release their work specifications to selected vendors, who will only be required to submit suggested staff for the work, methodology and price.

The Web marketplace will provide templates for agencies putting the work out as well as templates for vendor responses.

"We are also seeking concessions on limit of liability and insurance levels and we are looking to make sure that the panel contracts are appropriate to the scale and nature of the work categories," he said.

Currently there is a requirement of unlimited liability even for the provision of relatively low-cost services to government.

"What we are trying to do is align the limit of liability so that it's more sensitive to the risk profile of the work being done," he said.

David Raffen, chair of the ICT Council for South Australia, said he would support anything the government could do to reduce the cost of dealing with red tape and give more firms access to government ICT spend.

"All end of guarantees are required for companies to engage with government, and they are well and truly beyond the means of small business," Raffen said.

"Unlimited liability insurance is a large cost that doesn't bring any other benefit to the organisation. The current process marginalises smaller companies from being able to demonstrate their product to agencies."

The state government is also considering a relaxation of some ICT intellectual property arrangements. Currently, the government owns all the IP rights in work carried out by ICT contractors.

"We might consider some form of joint ownership of the technology, so that if it can be commercialised, government could have a view on how that might be done," Mailes said.

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