Qld school deal sparks tender concern

Qld school deal sparks tender concern

A leading integrator has scored the lucrative tender for Education Queensland's School LAN Project, while the project itself has renewed reseller concerns over the State's cumbersome purchasing policy.

Communications Design and Management (CDM) is set to ramp up preparations to roll out Stage Five of the project, backed by State Government to the tune of $6 million.

The fifth stage of the project, expected to begin soon, will see the completion of wiring basic LANs for every school in Queensland. Having just completed Stage Four of the project, numbering 323 out of 349 schools, estimated to be worth several million dollars, CDM is set to capitalise on an otherwise slow period for Education contracts rolling out the remaining QLD schools.

But the contract is just one in a long line of QLD Government tenders since the State Purchasing Policy was introduced, which left some resellers scratching their heads and others laughing all the way to the bank.

Beating stiff competition from eight other bidders for Stage Four of the project in 1998, CDM has succeeded in securing the project management for the Fifth and final Stage to be completed by 2001.

While CDM is rolling out the active equipment component of the project consisting of 3Com hardware, the company has sub-contracted the cabling component (using Molex cables) to nine other resellers - with Devv taking the lion's share of the Stage Four rollout, walking away with $1.4 million.

The School LAN project was put to tender by Education Queensland with the goal of linking every QLD school to the Connect-ED network, while separating school's administrative and curriculum networks.

Despite CDM's success, other resellers are finding it difficult to negotiate the State Purchasing Policy controlling all Government procurement, which is causing some resellers to turn away from bidding for government tenders while sparking accusations of "sweetheart deals" by others.

One reseller in contact with ARN claims that while most resellers have gained the Government Information Technology Conditions (GITC) accreditation, only a select few are being considered for tenders; the others "don't have Buckley's.""I've been bidding and bidding for these tenders, but we don't have a chance," a disheartened reseller told ARN. "So I don't bid for [government tenders] anymore."While a QLD Government official assured ARN that the State Purchasing Policy contains mechanisms to ensure all tenders are awarded in a fair and competitive manner, it was acknowledged that many suppliers are not aware of the full extent of the Policy, causing "undercurrents" of dissatisfaction with the tendering process.

The stumbling block for many unhappy resellers appears to be the difference involved in the tender process for a government contract, as opposed to a tender put out by a private enterprise, with many believing government tenders are not won on the merits of a company, but rather the ability to prepare a tender and the bottom line.

Jonathan Childs, sales representative for Madison Technologies, one of the unsuccessful School LAN Project bidders, claims it is a case of knowing "how to play the game".

"We learnt a lot from the School LAN Project that we've been able to use to win a number of Health contracts," Childs said. "It's an English essay. If you get 10 out of 10 you win - and it could be worth $20 million."Narrowly losing out to CDM on the School LAN Project, Graham Wittke, state manager of Logical Networks, feels government tenders require companies to tell the government what it wants to hear, in a way it wants to hear it.

"It's a lot more involved than private tenders," Wittke said.

Although ecstatic about securing the "massive" contract with CDM, Gerry Phelan, managing director of Devv, acknowledges the "rather cumbersome" process of paying a consultant to prepare tenders on a company's behalf.

"Ninety-nine per cent of the time [the government] take the lowest price, which isn't always good," Phelan told ARN. "The biggest thing for us [in securing Stage 4 and 5] is it allows us to put on 10 new apprentices."Education Queensland was unwilling to respond to numerous ARN inquiries at the time of going to press.

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