FSFE to Advance Fair Public IT Procurements in Finland
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has started an initiative to advance fair public procurements in Finland. The initiative concentrates on IT related procurement notices that require brand instead of defining functionalities required by the procurer. To date FSFE has skimmed over 300 procurement notices, and of those taken into closer analysis, 14 have been found to clearly violate the Finnish procurement law. These violating notices explicitly asked for tenders of specific brands of software manufacturers or products and thus discriminate all other brands and manufacturers, effectively stopping free competition.
"We want to raise awareness about this kind of misconduct." says project manager and FSFE Finnish team coordinator Otto Kekäläinen. "The point of procurement law is to increase fair competition and get better software for lower prices, bringing more value for the tax payer's money. It is imperative that we get 100% of the IT departments in public bodies to follow the law, so Free Software companies can compete on fair terms" he continues.
"In the rare circumstances where a brand may be referred to in a procurement notice, it must be followed by 'or equivalent'" adds Martin von Willebrand, the attorney engaged to the project. "The Finnish law and the underlying EU directive are very clear on this."
In case the procurement law is violated, FSFE contacts the violating authorities to raise awareness on procurement law and best practices. In addition to pointing out the specific violation the notice contains, the letters also includes a six item list of recommendations to ensure proper competition:
- Define the procurement by functionalities and standards. Do not request specific products or require certain brands. This allows competing vendors to take part.
- Procure for long enough periods, eg. 4 to 6 years, so that there is enough time to plan and execute a change of vendor. Buying new systems from the old vendor just because there is not time to migrate is normally not an acceptable excuse.
- Base price comparison on the entire life span costs. Specifically include exit costs that arise at the end of the life span, when the vendor changes.
- Make sure that the procured system is modular and adheres to Open Standards, so that there is always the option to change the vendor for a module or that completely new modules can be taken into use and that they can access the existing data.
- Ensure unlimited right to modify the software and have it delivered as source code, so that there is independece from single vendors. The original vendor does not have to waive their copyright.
- By favoring Free Software (also knows as "open source") all above mentioned requirements are easy to fulfill.
In the letter FSFE asks the authorities to release corrected notices, with all the violations fixed. Just if no improvements can be seen, FSFE will later separately consider facilitating court cases or publishing the identified violations and the names of the officials that have prepared or approved the violations.
The project started in December 2011 and will continue until the proportion of illegal procurment notices drops to insignificance.
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