ASX-listed Volante Systems has won a three-year contract worth $9.4 million to provide hardware and on-site IT support for all 243 Electorate Offices across Australia. The arrangement will see Volante assisting the Department of Parliamentary Reporting Staff provide a single help desk for senators, members and staff in Parliament House, electorate offices and remote locations. A six-week service provider pilot will start next month, followed by an eight-week period where the new image will be rolled out together with “some new pieces of equipment and minor upgrades”, according to a spokesman for the Federal Government’s Department of Finance and Administration. New equipment envisaged at this stage includes the introduction of network attached storage and the replacement of existing Palm Pilots with pocket PCs in every office. Rollout is expected to be completed by October with ongoing support and technology refresh provided as required. The departmental spokesman said five companies — a mixture of “multinationals and SMEs” — submitted bids to the tender process. Volante was awarded the contract because its bid represented the “best value for money” after being short-listed along with another local firm. Current incumbent, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), which completes a five-year deal at the end of June, did not submit a bid. Volante managing director, Hugh Bickerstaff, said the deal, along with a recent $12 million Santos contract, represented very strong company growth in the selective outsourcing space and showed Volante had a value proposition as good as any of the multinational players. “This is a strategically significant and high profile deal for them [Federal Government] so they have been very careful and rigorous in the bid process,” Bickerstaff said. “It is our first major Federal Government contract and geographically our first in Canberra but we believe there will be other opportunities for us.” Volante is opening a small office in Canberra and appointing a relationship manager to bid for similar government contracts. Special Minister of State, Senator Eric Abetz, said the deal was a win for the Australian IT industry and claimed it highlighted government commitment to “levelling the playing field for SMEs.” Shadow IT Minister Senator, Kate Lundy, congratulated Volante on its appointment but ridiculed claims that the contract showed a government commitment to levelling the playing field for SMEs. She cited targets for Australian small businesses participating in government IT outsourcing contracts falling from 24 per cent to 11.8 per cent, multinationals going unpunished for breaking contractual commitments, local industry development requirements being dropped in government contracts valued at less than $20 million and an overall decline in SME participation for government IT outsourcing contracts from approximately 30 per cent to five per cent during the coalition’s period in office.