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PT: Advocacy group criticises government portal, builds alternative

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Portugal's National Association for the promotion of Free Software (Ansol) accuses the government Office of Construction and Property (INCI) of having broken procurement rules after it admitted on Monday that it had signed a 268,000 euro contract with Microsoft for the government's website on Public Expenses, Base, without a public tender.

According to Ansol, INCI, the country's regulator for the construction industry and real estate agents, failed to publish a request for tender for building the Base portal.

According to a Ansol statement, INCI said it did not have time to publish a request for tender. The group also writes that the regulator office said it had contractual obligations to sign the contract with the proprietary software vendor. "INCI is admitting it is totally dependent on Microsoft technology. By not publishing a request for tender it is making competition impossible", says Ansol president Rui Miguel Silva Seabra.

The group is demanding a meeting with the INCI chairman.

Ansol is also disputing the expenses INCI said it has made to improving the Base search options. Portugal's daily newspaper O Público yesterday revealed INCI had paid Microsoft 20,000 euro to improve the web site's search. "A good search engine should have part of  the original proposal", Ansol says.

Ansol earlier this year built an alternative search engine, called 'Transparency', saying the government's web site search functionality was broken. "Base originally had a search option, but it would not actually search through the government expenses listed on the site", explains Silva Seabra. "When searching for 'Office', the site returned advertisements for Microsoft Office Server."

Browsing the Base search results was completely impractical, Ansol found and so the group built their own search engine. This quickly turned up interesting details on government expenses, Silva Seabra says.

Following a article on the alternative search engine on the front page of the daily newspaper O Público on 16 January this year, the Ansol search engine was quickly overloaded by two hundred thousand visitors in just a few hours. The Transparency search engine has since been moved to a bigger computer.

"Visitors were uncovering hundreds of dubious expenses", says Silva Seabra. "However, INCI has said that most of these are errors in the data submitted by the public administrations"

More information:

Base

INCI

Transparency

Parliamentary questions by Bruno Dias (in Portuguese, pdf)

Blog on the INCI and Ansol (in Portuguese)

Information