Smaller Enterprises Get a Better Go: Government drops ESA list

The industry has welcomed the Federal Government's decision to scrap its Endorsed Supplier Arrangement (ESA), claiming it opens the door for more suppliers to win public sector business.

The ESA was introduced 12 years ago as a pre-qualification supplier scheme. Organisations needed to be insured for up to seven years, show performance guarantees and prove financial viability. Last month, the Federal Government announced it would drop the scheme in an attempt to cut red tape. AIIA CEO, Sheryle Moon, said a major problem with the ESA was the cost and time it took to meet criteria. This had stopped many smaller organisations competing. "The key issue was providing capability and fiduciary responsibility. This often made it difficult for small enterprises in Australia," she said.

Moon said the AIIA had initially supported the ESA as a way of ensuring a harmonised approach to government business. However, increased sophistication and centralisation of tenders, along with a maturation of the industry, had made it redundant. "It's a very different landscape to 12 years ago when there was more of a concern about an organisation's ability to continue to supply to government," she said. "These [checks] will now happen during the tender process.

"The ESA was like a playing card you needed to be able to play in the game, but you could wind up spending your life on the bench. We expect to see more local companies responding to tenders. It gives them a real opportunity to respond to and a real chance to win the tender."

Moon said AIIA's one concern with the new model was the absence of standards.

"We don't want to see a return to a proliferation of requests when suppliers respond to a tender," she said. "Financial statements are a good example. We don't want that to become onerous for suppliers."

The ESA is being superseded by a voluntary ICT multi-use list, based on broader technology categories. Companies will provide an overall description of their business and statement of financial viability. However, current ESA suppliers can continue to use their accreditation logo until next September.

Networking integrator, Accucom, has not previously focused on Federal Government. Sales manager, Anthony Sarkis, gave the government's decision to drop the ESA a big thumbs up. "It's certainly something we will look at now - we might even target that market," he said.

Dimension Data corporate communications manager, Martin Aungle, was concerned about the level of information that would be available to agencies. DiData is an ESA supplier. "The danger is that the government won't have the pre-qualified information that it had under the old system," he said.

"Whether this means an increase in their workload or not remains to be seen." NetOptions is also ESA accredited. Managing director, Richard McAlary, didn't expect to see much of a change in its dealings with Federal Government.

"This will make it easier for smaller players to participate in the first place," he said. "Even for some of the larger organisations, the insurance requirements were daunting."