To help reduce the government's debt, Portugal's public administrations should switch to free and open source software, pleads the country's Association for Free Software, Ansol. In a manifest published earlier this month, the group exposes recent violations of European public procurement rules, accusing public authorities of what it calls 'an unacceptable waste of public money'.
Ansol specifically condemns the Banc of Portugal, two municipalities and two universities, of "macroscopic illegal procurement procedures". These public administrations recently published requests for specific brands and products, Ansol points out. "This is explicitly forbidden and prevents competition. These contests are not real competitions."
The group, which has over 70 members, this month contacted all political parties in the Portuguese parliament. It included copies of its public 'Manifesto do Campo das Cebolas' (Manifest of the Field of Onions).
In the document, Ansol accuses public administrations of failing to take their responsibility (for proper procurement) and of hiding behind layers of micro-decisions. "Authorities ignoring the mechanics of this millefeuille, lead citizens to sometimes blame the government for everything: the deficit, taxes, floods and plagues of beetles."
"Free software alternatives will never get a chance because of these", Ansol laments. It points to several examples of governments and enterprises that reduced their IT costs by moving to free and open source alternatives. It names for instance the case of a Portuguese insurer, 'Tranquilidade', that by moving to Linux-based systems managed to reduce the costs of proprietary software licences by 80 per cent.
"Free software success stories are nothing new. Similar reports, involving public administrations, can be found all over Europe", comments Rui Seabra, the association's president.
Public administrations must consider these options, the group argues. "It's time that the inner layers answer for their decisions, or alternatively, they should lose the power to decide."
So far, just one of the political parties acknowledged Ansol's critique, says Seabra. "We hope our country's politicians will look into these issues, given the current time financial crisis. Our experience tells us that we should not be very optimistic."
Statement by Ansol (in Portuguese)
Manifesto do Campo das Cebolas (in Portuguese)