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Anything but open source!

Oct. 19, 2012

In the tender for equipment for Regional Centre for Transferring Modern Technologies in Mielec, Poland bidder can offer any IT solution, as long as it's not based on Free and Open Source Software...

It's another of controversial tenders tracked down by Foundation of  Free and Open Source Software experts in the scope of  "Monitoring of public procurement for software and hardware in units of government and local administration and intervention in case of  detecting irregularities". This time their attention was brought by tender for "Equipment for Regional Centre for Transferring Modern Technologies in Mielec" issued by District Starosty. Announcement has been issued in Official Journal of the European Union - TED: 292946-2012. Estimated value of the tender is over 200 thousand €. Time limit for receipt of tenders is due on 22.10.2012. Documentation of this tender is available here: District Starosty in  Mielec.

What alarmed Foundation's Experts was a clause in  Terms of Reference saying that delivery should contain: "Educational versions: Non-Open Source operating system allowing for undisturbed operation of programs already owned by contracting authority, Office Suite Non-Open Source consisting of word processor, spreadsheet, presentation program, database program, communication program, voice recording program". In Foundation's opinion those types of notation seriously infringe Public Procurement Law (PZP). It is worth mentioning that art. 7, sec.1 of PZP Act says that ordering party should prepare and conduct tender in a way that allows fair competition and equality of tenderers, also art. 29 sec. 2 of PZP states that ordering party cannot describe object of tender in a way that would infringe fair competition. In the Foundation's experts opinion object of tender described as ordering party did  in this case infringes said Acts of PZP, therefore proposal has been made to remediate the tendering procedure (intervention letter can be found under this link). In Foundation's opinion there is no logical and legitimate indication to exclude "open source" solution. It is also worth noticing that those kind of entries infringe not only PZP regulations but also European Union's regulations and regulations of Public Finances Act (27th of August 2009), which commands the ordering party to spend public money  in a purposeful and economical way, with the effort to spend money following the rule of the best possible expenditure, optimal selection of methods and means serving the purpose (art. 44, sec.3 of Public Finances Act). In view of the above arguments it's worth citing results of research conducted by Foundation of Free and Open Source Software „Using of free and open source software in government public administration (collected  in publication from 2010) which says that the predominant reasons to use Free and Open Source Software are financial aspects: high costs of licensing proprietary software, overpriced in respondents' opinion. The alternative is Open Source!

We remain to hope that this intervention will motivate Mielec officials to modify the description of tender and adjusting it to conform to PZP rules. This matter is even more sensitive as this tender regards project financed by EU funds, and the main EU rule is the principle of non-discrimination, equal treatment of tenderers and widely comprehended transparency rule...

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