Strong Reader Response to While We Were Sleeping Post or (Playing Hide-and-Seek with Chuck Henry and Steven Poole)

Posted on March 1, 2008

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Response to yesterday’s post regarding the role that associations are playing in undermining their own efforts to effect positive and sustainable change in Government of Canada procurement policy is quite telling.

Distributed widely through a variety of channels, readers were in some cases “passionate” in their comments.  One such example came from an industry veteran who stated, “Why does someone not go to the Opposition who control the Committee’s and force some public testimony. PWGSC prefers to sneak around in the backrooms, afraid to engage in public debate.”

Alternatively, a former government employee was more reflective in their response as demonstrated by the following, “I was fully aware of this change and the direction the Feds are taking, and think that it really minimizes the potential of small company business development.”

At the end of the day, there appears to be a collective belief that the GoC is headed for yet another setback that many feel could be avoided through a productive collaborative exchange.

Given these circumstances it is anyone’s guess as to why the core government hierarchy consistently refuses to at least present valid case references supporting their position.

One such example of a case reference is the Commonwealth of Virginia’s eVA program.

Launched in 2001 (coincidentally within the same time frame that the Way Forward program was also introduced), the Commonwealth’s strategy (which is the polar opposite of the one being pursued by the GoC’s Henry and Poole) is highly successful as demonstrated by the “tangible” results to date.

Statistics provided by Virginia indicate that their supply base has grown from 20,000 in 2001 to 34,000 in 2007, and that the distribution of business has also increased from 23% of all suppliers receiving orders in 2001 to more than 40% in 2007.

Finally, and this is the most telling statistic, in 2001 only 1% of the targeted $3.5 billion in spend was processed through eVA.  In 2007 that number has increased to more than 80%.  And this was all accomplished with an On-Demand (now called Software as a Service) pricing model.

No such numbers are available relative to the Government of Canada’s multiple programs.

This then leads to a number of hard questions including:

1. Why have two similarly embarked upon initiatives, which were launched at roughly the same time, produced completely different results?

2. Why does the GoC continue to pursue a strategy in which they have been unable to provide actual case references in terms of success?

3. While the Federal U.S. Government is actively engaged in a program to un-bundle contracts in an effort to stimulate SME participation and growth, why is the GoC pursuing a strategy that seemingly hinders SME access to Canadian government contracts?

4. Further to question number 3, the U.S. Government has provided statistical support that their programs are resulting in an increase in the level of SME engagement and contract wins.  Why has the Canadian government failed to provide similar statistical analyses?

The paucity of answers has of course led to wide spread speculation.  This includes assertions of incompetence in key areas of senior management to high levels of corruption and a deliberate attempt to euthanize the SME community in terms of winning government contracts.

As I have stated on numerous occasions, while I do not necessarily agree with these positions (at least not at this stage), the Canadian Government’s unwillingness to provide even a modicum of insight into their thought process is perplexing.  In short, if Henry and Poole truly belief that their course of action is the right one, why not openly discuss its merits?  This includes the provision of case references and the corresponding statistical analyses supporting their position.