Public Call for Tender Requested: Swiss Group Challenges Microsoft Contracts

May 13, 2009

The Swiss Federal Office for Construction and Logistics (Bundesamt für Bauten und Logistik, or BBL) is reported as having purchased Microsoft licenses in the order of 42 million Swiss francs (about $38 million). Because no public bids were tendered, open source organizations are now requesting a review of the decision.

The Swiss BBL office had already acted on Microsoft's bid in February but did not make it public until the May 1, 2009 issue of the Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce. The deal is that the existing Microsoft license, maintenance and support agreements for desktops and servers would be extended for three years, at an annual cost of 14 million Swiss francs. Now Swiss organizations have submitted a complaint against the contract with the Swiss Federal Courts.

According to the BBL office, a public call for tender was not required in this case, as BBL spokesperson Katja Lunau revealed to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on May 5. She claimed that the "uniqueness of the contract" was based on the lack of a viable competitive product, that competitive bidding was not an option and that the license agreements do not need to be made public. In the newspaper she is quoted as saying, "Federal license agreements, which include Microsoft products, have never been publicly advertised. When these agreements were made, today's procurement laws were not yet in force." The Swiss organization /ch/open refuses to accept this argument. Matthias Stürmer of /ch/open pointed to successful examples of competitive bids in places such as the Swiss canton of Solothurn and the Swiss Federal Courts themselves.

The names of companies that will join in the complaint have not been publicized. According to Stürmer in an interview with Linux New Media, "the larger companies are reluctant, but even the smaller ones are holding back." He believes he knows the reason why: "If they are already doing business with the federal government, they fear that they might be at a disadvantage by joining in the complaint." Companies need to decide by May 20, the deadline of the formal complaint process.

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