Government forces pace of e-procurement

An e-commerce survey of the federal government's 138 departments and agencies shows more than 90 per cent of its purchasing will be transacted online by the end of 2001.

The commonwealth survey is part of its e-procurement mandate to shift all purchasing online over the next 12 months and to include all three tiers of government through a single portal.

By the end of this year the government will pay all major suppliers electronically so companies bidding in this lucrative $50 billion-a-year marketplace need to be listed in the Single Supplier Registry (www.govonline.gov.au).

The registry will be a cross-jurisdictional, cross-agency tool said to make it easier and more cost-effective for suppliers to deal with all levels of government.

Suppliers can implement an Endorsed Supplier Arrangement (ESA) which is a system allowing companies to sell into the government marketplace.

The government is presently upgrading its ESA system from being partially Web-enabled to a state of the art, interactive Web site capable of using digital signature certificates.

Speaking at the government's e-procurement conference in Sydney last week, Special Minister for State Senator Chris Ellison said agencies wishing to make purchases can use an online search facility to find information on suppliers, dealer outlets, products and services on offer.

Ellison said the ESA system will be among the first government Web systems to use Gatekeeper compliant public key technology to provide suppliers with a high level of security in transmitting confidential data.

In response to criticisms small to medium sized businesses may be left behind in the government's e-procurement strategy, Ellison said commonwealth agencies must source at least 10 per cent of their purchases from small to medium-sized enterprises.

He said this target has been surpassed, reaching 27 per cent in some cases.

The government is combining its e-procurement strategy with market testing of all commonwealth activities and services and its IT outsourcing program.

While total public-sector spending for federal, state and territory governments is $50 billion annually, Ellison said the commonwealth itself spends $8 billion on goods and services. Revised commonwealth procurement guidelines will be announced next month.

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