THE STATE will pay €52.6 million to prolong its software licensing agreement with US-based Microsoft for another three years. Though the Finance Ministry said that the final sum will be lower than that agreed by the previous government, political ethics watchdogs have warned that the contract is being signed without detailed analysis.
The Finance Ministry announced on January 16 that it would sign an amendment to its existing agreement, which includes the purchase of a total of 82,388 licences and an upgrade of software including the Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite. The ministry said that the final sum will be 18 to 19.5 percent less than for the same services between 2008 and 2011, the SITA newswire reported.
“Furthermore, we agreed to a more valuable set of services oriented on optimisation of the products used and realisation of central monitoring and audit of the products used equivalent in value to approximately €1 million,” stated the ministry, as quoted by SITA.
However, the amendment has been criticised by Fair-Play Alliance (AFP) which said it is “concerned by the way the government of the Slovak Republic is purchasing the software”.
“The contract is set to be signed without the government publishing a comprehensive analysis on whether there are any other options, why the number of licences should increase, and how individual products are used,” AFP’s Peter Kunder wrote in response to news of the Microsoft contract.
He added that the ministry is increasing the number of licences despite the fact that the number of civil service jobs has been cut and that in most cases the programmes being licensed will never be used.
AFP is also calling on the government not to approve the amendment, which was submitted for interdepartmental comments via a fast-tracked procedure, as it “does not even specify why the purchase of licences worth €52 million is not being carried out via a public tender”, Kunder stated.
Meanwhile, the Public Procurement Office (ÚVO) instructed the ministry not to continue preparing the agreement, saying that the purchase should be the subject of a public competition. In the instruction sent to the ministry it stated that the contract with Microsoft is considered an order which, according to the Public Procurement Act, should be preceded by a public procurement process, SITA wrote.
However, the ministry stated that it is not signing a new agreement, but only an amendment to an existing one.
“Nobody is pleased when there is a big dependency on one supplier,” said Finance Ministry spokesperson Martin Jaroš, as quoted by SITA, adding that though the ministry tries to hold public procurement processes involving more bidders and to seek the lowest price, sometimes the ministry just does not have any other choice.