Prospects for New Zealand government agencies’ use of the centrally mandated GoProcure online procurement system have shrunk even further, with an admission that the implementation of requisitioning software to agencies for internal use has proved more complex than expected.
GoProcure was planned in two versions; the “full suite” option, which would have given an electronic requisitioning system to agencies that did not already have one, and a “core transaction hub”, which processes transactions centrally and provides a host for suppliers’ catalogues that all participating agencies can access.
The full suite option turned out to involve "a significant level of work and change" around financials and other business processes within an agency, says e-government unit head Brendan Boyle.
There was also a mismatch between some agencies' expectation that they would be able to tailor the product entirely to their own needs, and the need perceived by the e-government unit for cross-communication of procurement information to the mutual advantage of several agencies, says Boyle.
The project is broken into a number of phases. The purpose of the first phase was to determine the feasibility of implementing the different options.
“Evaluation of this phase however showed that agencies are better implementing internal requisitioning systems, which some agencies have already done, and using the GoProcure transaction hub for updating catalogues and passing transactions to suppliers,” says a statement from State Services minister Trevor Mallard.
The evaluation of the first phase quickly revealed that the full suite option was more difficult to implement and operate than initially scoped, Mallard says.
A primary attraction of a full suite option was that agencies could customise their requisitioning to meet their individual needs.
"Systems testing, however, revealed that the degree to which agencies could do that was limited."
Boyle does not see this as a failure of the original GoProcure concept.
"We'd always said the first phase would be about trial and evaluation. We've used that phase to make a decision about our future direction, and to make it sooner rather than later."
The full suite option was to be trialled in the Department of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, but will not now proceed in those agencies.
The full suite will still be available to agencies who want to take it up independently, but will not now be offered from the centre of the e-government effort, as an integral part of GoProcure, Boyle says.
Originally, major departments were expected to take up the full suite, and the SSC was looking for about 20 agencies to do so, in order to provide business justification for providing the system in that form.
In keeping with NZ public service tradition, the decision whether to adopt GoProcure was left to the agencies.
However, agencies were clearly less keen than expected on adopting the system, and late last year government made communication with the hub mandatory, leaving the choice of whether to implement the full suite voluntary.
The testing phase is still not formally over. It began in December 2002 and is scheduled to run to November 2003, “when a decision is expected to be made on whether and how to continue to the next phase of introducing more agencies to the transaction hub,” Mallard says.
New Zealand Police and the University of Auckland will be the first users of the GoProcure transaction hub. Ironically, the Police was one of the first to state that it would not be adopting the full suite, as it had a functioning SAP-based internal procurement system.