South african government procurement

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Our imperatives

  • To force any Government entity whose proprietary ELA is expiring to go out on tender for GIS and related software and services
  • To force any biased or non-competitive tender for new or continued GIS or related service or software provision to be withdrawn, rewritten and re-issued

It needs to be made clear to SCM heads, City Managers and anyone else in the decision chain that:

  • they may not simply renew licences but have to go out to OPEN tender and consider alternatives
  • they may not specify software by brand but have to specify a solution to a problem
  • they cannot use the argument that ESRI or any other vendor is a sole supplier as there are many equivalent alternatives, both proprietary and FOSS
  • Opportunity has to be given to FOSS solutions if offered since that is Government and SITA policy
  • They may not use the ‘framework agreement’ to justify purchasing ESRI or Oracle
* SAGI is pushing SITA, Treasury and the Auditor General for the framework agreement to be scrapped or in the interim for FOSS alternative to be added to it (which will leave any entity invoking the framework agreement with no choice but to use the FOSS option since its aim is cost containment)
  • The ‘framework agreement’ in any case only applies to Provincial and National entities administered through SITA and is only a mechanism to secure discount pricing IF the continued use of ESRI or Oracle is justified (which it never actually is for Government)
  • that the argument that ‘we’ve already made such an investment in ESRI and it will be wasted if we change’ is known as the ’sunk-cost fallacy’ and is exactly that, a non-argument.
  • that having invested in systems that lock them in to a vendor such as ESRI is no excuse or reason for not changing. If they had complied with MIOS and other legislation and the Constitution itself as well as best practice IT design, they would have ensured from the start that any system they invested in would be standards compliant and interoperable, even if it was built with proprietary software.
  • the use of the ’Section 36’ emergency provision is highly suspicious and will expose them to prosecution (deviating from SCM regulations e.g.
  • they are liable in any case for fruitless and reckless expenditure in these times of austerity and widespread corruption and maladministration
  • that perks like trips to the international user conferences that are included in licence agreements and described as ’training’ could be contrued as kickbacks in disguise and that purchasing decisions can be skewed when these muddy the waters. Furthermore, I doubt the GIS users benefit from these as much as the managers who signed off on the purchase or insisted on the requirement.


"The Competition Commission is a statutory body constituted in terms of the Competition Act, No 89 of 1998 by the Government of South Africa empowered to investigate, control and evaluate restrictive business practices, abuse of dominant positions ..."

There is a case to be made at the Competition Commission to investigate certain vendors' monopolistic practices, which not only flout Government policy but deny opportunity to other businesses, not only to FOSS providers but also other proprietary vendors.

What is Government expenditure on GIS software?

Let's get an idea how big the problem is and how much could be saved by migrating to FOSS

We should request full records of expenditure on ESRI, Hexagon, Oracle and other proprietary vendors by Government for, say the last ten years, with a full breakdown of entities involved and if they don’t comply, to make a PAIA request. Who would we ask? SITA? Treasury?

I’ve loaded some tenders to that I would like SAGI to object to and request to be cancelled and reissued post haste, before they are awarded. Descriptions and basic reasons are on that page. Ones to cancel are Joburg, DRDLR and Umgungundlovu. Not eMalahleni - that is there as a good example.

The situation has really become untenable especially in this new environment of trying to clean up governance and reduce expenditure.

South African IT procurement, amongst many other factors and regulations, is governed by these principles

  • Functionality
  • Cost containment
  • Open Source (FOSS)

An OPEN tender or quotation process must be followed in these circumstances

  • new requirements
  • the end of an ELA or SLA

These are the basic steps that ANY government entity is supposed to follow

  • conduct a process to determine functional and non-functional requirements and write these up as formal ToR (Terms of Reference)
 * you may not mention a product or brand OR structure the ToR so they are biased towards a brand or vendor 
 * a 'licence' is not a functional requirement and therefore has no place in a ToR
  • put these ToR to OPEN tender or quotation (depending on size) via the CSD (Central Supplier Database) so they appear on the | eTender portal
  • if a FOSS-based bid is submitted and is considered responsive, it has to be adjudicated fairly along with any other bid. If it comes out with the best score (technical+price+BEE) then naturally it must be selected.

  • there is NO justification for hanging on to a proprietary system
 * 'sunk-cost fallacy'  
  • the early stages of a FOSS contract should include a managed migration process, of systems and users, from whatever systems existed before. If the previous systems were designed properly (service-based, interoperable, etc.) this should not be a problem.

With FOSS, there is no need to procure off-the-shelf software! There are no software costs or privative licences! Instead, you can procure the development and implementation of a solution or a service and maintenance agreement, that meet specific functional requirements. Part of that might be software development, but you are buying a service, not the software. Any custom software that is developed into a solution must be done as FOSS itself, so anyone else can use it or contribute to it.

Benefits / Pros

Working for Water MIS:



FOSS policy in South Africa

Some International FOSS policy and case studies

  • [Case_Studies#Open_Source_Policies]