Government representatives and organisations involved in software tenders in Hungary, Latvia and the Netherlands say last month's IDABC report 'Guidelines on public procurement and Open Source Software' is useful.
According to the report software tenders by European public administrations often may fall foul of EU regulations, favouring proprietary applications.
"It may not be directly useful for us in our ongoing court case, but it seems helpful background material. We are going to read it carefully", said Katalin Morvay, representative of Hungary's Competition Office.
This organisation in March filed protests against the government's largest software tender ever, a request for 25 billion HUF (about a 100 million euro) of Microsoft or equivalent software for public administration and educational institutions. The Municipal Court of Budapest (Fővárosi Bíróság) in September dismissed the claim in a preliminary judgement, but has missed its thirty day deadline to deliver the final decision.
In Latvia the ministry of Finance last month warned the country's public administrations against migrating from proprietary to Open Source IT. Introducing Open Source will increase costs for maintenance and training, the ministry said.
The IDABC report describes how part of these could be hidden costs imposed by the previous software acquisition. These 'exit costs' are a major reason for public administrations to break tender regulations and simply name brand names or specific products, says the report.
Asked to comment on the IDABC Guidelines, the Finance ministry said it has never created artificial restrictions for IT solutions. "We define the functionality requirements and compliance with these is the only criterion for choosing provider of platform or service. For example, Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server currently is the only solution that is able to meet our functionality requirements and we do not see an Open Source substitute that would provide exactly the same functionality."
"Open Source solutions are not always solutions free of costs", the ministry says. "Open Source is a solution with alternative financial structure of service and its own restrictions and products, which do not always comply with specific functionality requirements. As a result it can be the case that Open Source solutions turn out to be more expensive than proprietary software solution in the end. However, if Open Source meets our needs, of course we qualify it for the use in our IT system."
The Dutch ministry of Economic Affairs last week welcomed the guidelines. "It confirms the government's policy on Open Standards and Open Source", the ministry's spokesperson said. "IT tenders need to specify functionality, and public administrations must select Open Standards IT solutions or will have to explain why this is impossible. Open Source must get an equal chance in software tenders, and this is why all public administrations need to adapt their IT strategies."