Free software advocates in Finland are warning that they will take the country's public administrations to court if they continue to break national and European rules when procuring IT solutions. The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is calling on public authorities to allow competition and to stop procuring specific brands or products.
Last week, the FSFE's Finland chapter announced the start of a campaign to make procurement rules clear to public administrations. "That is our primary aim. But we're going to write down the names of all the officials involved, to use as evidence in court in case they continue to make mistakes", warned Otto Kekäläinen, FSFE's Finland coordinator.
The FSFE says that too many public procurement procedures contain mistakes. The advocacy group recently "skimmed" over three hundred procurement notices, and found clear violations of procurement law in fourteen (almost five per cent). "Public administrations are not aware of the rules, or don't care enough about them", concludes Kekäläinen.
The group's campaign is supported by several open source IT service providers. In case a public institution continues to flout the rules, these companies will take them to court, with the FSFE as their legal representative.
The FSFE will contact all public authorities to request fixing of the procurement errors.
Announcing their campaign, the FSFE made public a list of six recommendations to help improve procurement. For example, it recommends public administrations to specify their IT needs in functionalities and standards, instead of specific products or certain brands.
The group also suggests to take time for renewal of existing systems. "Buying new systems from the old vendor just because there is not time to migrate is normally not an acceptable excuse." A third recommendation is to include 'exit costs', to allow changing vendor or solution.
By favouring free and open source software, the FSFE says, "all requirements are easy to fulfil".
The FSFE is not the only organisation in Europe that objects to public authorities breaking procurement rules. In 2010 Open Forum Europe, an IT trade group estimated that one in ten IT tenders illegally specify specific brands. April, a French free software group last year joined the FSFE in a letter to the European Commission, asking for improvements to the rules, to boost the use of free and open source software.