The French free software advocacy group April is protesting the renegotiation by the Ministry of Defence of a proprietary software licence contract that was signed four years ago without a public procurement. The group is asking the ministry to halt the talks with the proprietary software vendor and to organise a public call for tender instead.
The ministry is again bypassing public procurement and negotiating for an extension of the licence contract, the French IT trade publication PC Inpact reported this Wednesday. On its website, the magazine published a detailed review of the existing contract. It recalls that in 2010 the French parliament raised questions over the contract. PC Inpact also quotes a report by the country's Public Procurement Committee, warning that the contract could indefinitely lock the ministry to the proprietary software. The committee also raised serious concerns about the legality of the agreement.
In a statement published yesterday, April calls on the French government "to establish a public policy in favour of free software". This would be in line with the government's guidelines on the use of free software in the country's public administrations, published last September. "This requires the ministry to organise a transparent and open-to-all call for tender."
The pressure group warns that renewing the contract will turn the ministry into a theatre operating exclusively on software from this vendor. "A new contract between the Defence Ministry and this company, repeatedly condemned by the European Commission for its abuses, is unacceptable", says Frédéric Couchet, April's executive director. "The Defence Ministry is not only ignoring public procurement principles, it is also handing its strategic control over to the proprietary software company."