Microsoft raises concerns over Indian govt’s e-Marketplace, says procurement norms being violated

As the government of India invites bids from technology and ecommerce companies to run its online marketplace Government e-Marketplace (GeM), Microsoft has written to the union government expressing concerns over the process being followed, reports the Economic Times.

Through GeM, the government is looking to set up an online marketplace for government procurement. This includes things like stationery, laptops, furniture and even services like laundry, hailing a cab and more.

The central govt is currently in the process of inviting bids to manage this platform. Several reports suggest that Flipkart, Amazon, TCS, Wipro and even Microsoft are vying to be able to manage the platform.

However, ET reports that Microsoft has written to various departments including the commerce ministry and the PM’s Office, saying the process of establishing the online marketplace is against stipulated policies and violated procurement norms.

In the letter written by Microsoft, the technology major says that government departments are being unresponsive to the queries sent in by bidders. It also says that the departments are misinterpreting the cloud and open source software policy defined by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

Concerns were also reportedly raised concerns about setting up a data disaster recovery centre for the project in close proximity.

While an official from the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposal (DGS&D) confirmed the receipt of the letter to ET, it has refuted all of Microsoft’s allegations. The DG&D currently handles all of the government’s procurement currently.

"Our core system has to be on open source. We can’t go for proprietary software... There has to be some sense of continuity. We are very clear on that," said the DGS&D official. He also rejected Microsoft’s contention that DGS&D violated ministry norms.

"A representative of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is also involved in the selection process. How can they violate guidelines?" he added.

GeM was launched in August last year to make procurement more efficient for the government. The one who wins the bid to manage GeM could earn around 0.5% of the total transaction value as commission.

While the final request for proposal was supposed to be released in the next two to three days, the bidding deadline has now been extended to June 15 against June 1.

According to the ET report, another official confirmed that Microsoft’s main areas of concern are open source software and cloud services. The official said that there is no violation with regard to a data centre because there are no guidelines on data centre of recovery centre.

And refuting the claim that queries of bidders are not being responded to, the government official said that except two-three queries, which the department is studying, it has sent most responses to bidders.

To allay bidders’ concerns, DGS&D plans to issue a revised RFP this week, which will address concerns of all prospective vendors.

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