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EC heckled over its framework software procurement

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The EC is defending its awarding of a 189 million Euro framework software contract on proprietary and open source software and related services. The Free Software Foundation Europe says the contract contradicts its own decisions and guidelines.

In a statement, the FSFE wrote earlier this month: "The EC's Digital Agenda, published in May 2010, calls for 'ICT products and services" to be "open and interoperable. A guideline issued by the EC's OSOR project cites European procurement rules to say that 'calls for tender should be based on functional requirements, not on specific products or vendors'. Last week's contract comes with a long list of specific products which the Commission wants to buy."

In a letter to the FSFE, Francisco García Morán, Director General of the EC's Directorate-General for Informatics (Digit), on 10 December explained that the contract "is the result of an open call for tenders awarded on the basis of the highest quality/price ratio."

The contract also covers the acquisition of open source software and of related services, García Morán writes. He adds that the EC will soon publish an updated version of its open source policy and that the EC uses 250 open source products.

The Director General listed examples including the use of open source servers, collaboration tools, authentication software, content management and e-invoice systems.



"An open source web browser is included in the desktop reference configuration available for all PCs at the Commission. The European Commission also manages three important public websites, also entirely powered by open source software: (e-govemment related open source observatory and repository), (semantic assets exchange centre) and (community of e- Govemment, e-Inclusion and e-Health)."

The FSFE replied to the Director General early this Thursday morning. It reply includes a request for more details on the framework contract and on the total number of servers in use at the commission.

The FSFE says that the framework contract satisfies the letter of the law, but is not "conducive to competitive bidding by a large number of providers of different programs. Our criticism is directed at the way in which this call for tender was designed, and at the underlying lack of a coordinated effort to make greater use of Free Software and Open Standards on the part of Digit."


More information:

Second FSFE statement

Letter from Director General at Digit (pdf)

First FSFE statement

Computer weekly news item

Computer weekly news item

Blog on Computer World UK

News item on Public Tendering

News item on Tech Eye

News item on Eweek Europe

News item on Heise (in German)

News item on Heise (in German)