Government IT procurement

Government IT procurement and Open Source Software.

What is it?

Open Source software is software whose source code is freely available for anyone to inspect, in contrast to proprietary or "closed source" software, which uses technical or legal means to restrict the use of its code. Often, open source software is free or low cost and can be adapted and built upon by its users. Despite potential benefits to government and citizens, procurement frameworks in the public sector take almost no account of open source.

Executive Summary

The phrase "Goverment IT procurement" has become synonymous with failure.

  • Solutions are often selected and then problems for these solutions are found later.
  • Often a procurement project can have several different managers over time.
  • Management has no experience of IT projects.
  • Bids are often deliberately low, in the knowledge that the cost of the underbid can be made up with over charging for change requests.
  • Frequently suppliers have to provide their products and services through a OGC-listed supplier adding middleman costs but little if any value.
  • It is incredibly expensive to bid for government work.

Most governments are doing the same thing—in tax collection, benefits payments, audit and so-on; look for best of breed. Taxpayers are not technologically patriotic. Dont build it again if some one else has already built it in a diffrent country.

Evidence-Based Studies

BECTA "Open source software in schools: A study of the spectrum of use and related ICT infrastructure costs" [1], 12 May 2005

Office of Government Commerce, "Successful IT: Modernising Government in Action" (The McCartney Review) [2]

Examples of public sector FOSS at work


  • Free Software, Free Society [3]


  • OSSWatch [4]
  • Open Source Consortium [5]
  • Open Schools Alliance [6]


  • Government Procurement Ideal Government
  • Gateway Review Process (Office of Government Commerce) [7]: The OGC Gateway Process examines programmes and projects at key decision points in their lifecycle it looks ahead to provide assurance that they can progress successfully to the next stage; the process is best practice in central civil government, the health sector, local government and Defence.
  • Senior IT Forum (Office of Government Commerce) [8]: The Senior IT Forum was set up following the publication of the Successful IT: Modernising Government in Action report and the Computing Services & Software Association (CSSA, now the IT, telecommunications and electronics association, Intellect) report 'Getting IT Right for Government'.Their aim is to identify and address joint systemic issues that occur in the acquisition and implementation of Government IT-enabled projects.


"The single payment scheme's … implementation last year to a near-impossible timetable was a masterclass in bad decision-making, poor planning, incomplete testing of IT systems, confused lines of responsibility, scant objective management information and a failure by the management team to face up to the unfolding crisis." — Edward Leigh, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee

"Why government IT projects go wrong", Mike Cross, ITWeek [9] Good general article on government procurement, with excellent summary of McCartney Report