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DTA’s ‘one-stop, non-stop shop’ for ICT hardware gets the green light

The Digital Transformation Agency is going ahead with plans to launch an ICT “hardware marketplace” for federal government buyers that was described in a discussion paper last year.

Michael Keenan, the minister responsible for the digital transformation sub-portfolio, has announced the new procurement platform will go ahead. His very brief statement contains little details but suggests the marketplace complements a new procurement panel for software services and licensing.

“A new Software Services and Licensing Panel and Hardware Marketplace will foster innovation, encourage competition and increase the number of small to medium enterprises selling to government,” according to Keenan’s statement.

“By consolidating existing ICT procurement panels and simplifying the application process, we will reduce duplication and make it easier for government and smaller sellers to do business.”

The last call for tenders from suppliers interested in joining the new panel went out last August and said the DTA would first appoint suppliers in the category of “Microsoft licensing solutions” and populate additional categories at an unspecified date in the future.

As for the marketplace, the DTA published a fairly detailed proposal in the December paper and called for industry feedback. It is not clear what the result of that consultation process was or whether the plan has been modified and if so, to what extent. It also isn’t clear if this would be separate to the existing Digital Marketplace, which is still in a beta testing phase, or an add-on.

According to Keenan’s terse statement, an “open application process will allow new sellers to join more frequently, with more opportunities and easier access to sell to government”.

The discussion paper explained the idea was to merge three previous procurement panels, and later expand to cover 17 “hardware and related categories” on the new platform. Costs would be recovered from Australian Public Service agencies:

“The Hardware Marketplace will consolidate the expiring ICT Hardware and Associated Services panel, the Mobile panel, and the hardware categories of the Commercial Off The Shelf Software and Hardware panel (COTS panel).

“The DTA will recover the cost of the hardware marketplace through an administration fee charged to participating government buyers. The administration fee will initially be 2 percent of invoiced purchases, reviewed periodically.”

The hardware marketplace is variously described in the discussion paper as “an always open, one-stop shop for government” and “one simple, clear and fast online catalogue” for agencies to buy ICT hardware.

The paper explains quite a lot about the idea, as of December, but Keenan’s brief announcement does not confirm whether the marketplace will go ahead exactly as described.

The system, as proposed, would allow sellers to simply state a minimum discount for government buyers as a percentage deducted from the recommended retail price of their products, rather than a full itemised price list.

One of the ideas being considered was to have all the pricing or the discounts from RRP visible to buyers and suppliers, to encourage competition outside of actual procurement processes.

The initial plan was to have the new platform up and running by August 31.

A new request for information has also been published on AusTender, asking industry to comment on drafts of a head agreement and statement of requirements which will be used in all later requests for tenders from suppliers looking to sell their wares in the online marketplace.

Update: after publication, Michael Keenan’s spokesperson confirmed the marketplace was “still being designed” and said the DTA would publish an article on its website shortly.

“The consultation which has already been conducted will be built on with the feedback received from the RFI. The DTA expects to release the full request for tender in late April 2018,” the spokesperson told The Mandarin.

Author Bio

Stephen Easton

Stephen Easton is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's previously reported for Canberra CityNews and worked on industry titles for The Intermedia Group.