April requests the negociations between Microsoft and the French Ministry of Defence to be suspended and transparency to be made on this subject.
Paris, February 6th, 2013. Press release.
PCINpact revealed on Feb. 5th 2013 an ongoing renegotiation on Microsoft's « Open Bar » offer to the French Ministry of Defence. The initial contract has been concluded in 2009 without any call for tender and it seems to have neglected many public procurement principles. April requests the suspension of this renegotiation and transparency about this issue.
"Open Bar", or Microsoft everywhere
In 2009, the French Ministry of Defence signed with Microsoft a framework agreement nicknamed « Open Bar ». This framework agreement allowed, during the duration of the contract (4 years), unlimited usage rights of some Microsoft products and associated services. At the end of the agreement, the contract allowed a call option to acquire all of the software. This framework agreement was signed by the interarmy department for infrastructure networks and information systems (direction interarmée des réseaux d'infrastructure et des systèmes d'information - DIRISI) with Microsoft Ireland for some parts and Microsoft France for the rest. The agreement foresaw the creation of a Microsoft expertise center (CCMS) located inside of the DIRISI office itself.
«The initial contract was concluded without any public call for tender, nor any open procedure within the rules of public procurement. It is unacceptable that the French Ministry of Defence clearly ignored the principles of public procurement, such as transparency and equal access, in a way that gives Microsoft control over the Ministry's master strategic plan » declared Jeanne Tadeusz, public affairs officer.
In 2010, Aful wrote to Members of Parliament and a written question was addressed to the Minister of Defence regarding the problems caused by this this framework agreement1.
In his answer to the written question, the Ministry stated: « So, the first version of this software infrastructure is mainly made of proprietary solutions and it benefits from this framework agreement with Microsoft. However, another version, based on open source solutions, will be available as of 2011 and will be deployed in parallel with the first proprietary solution. The experience feedback that the Ministry of Defence will receive on the parallel use of these different solutions from different user populations will enlighten the decisions taken in the future. » (our translation).
Has this been done? What was the user experience feedback? Was the Inter-ministerial department of Information Systems and Communication (DISIC, Direction interministérielle des systèmes d'information et de communication), that did not exist back in 2008, consulted on the renewal of the contract and what was its opinion?
« It would be interesting as well to know the impact of this agreement on the Free Software solutions providers. Has the Ministry of Defence turned into an theater of operations exclusively reserved to Microsoft, excluding the Free Software actors? » asked Frédéric Couchet, executive director of April.
A dangerous Open Bar for public actor's health and for Free Software
The PC INpact article published this Tuesday confirms that the French National Public Procurement Committee was asked in 2008 for a Notice of Compliance. PC Inpact publishes the notice from the committee rapporteur. In this edifying document, the rapporteur mentions the dominant position of Microsoft and its dangers, the sentencing by the European Commission, the doubts on the legality of the normalization process of the OOXML file format, the filing of multiple European patent applications by Microsoft to protect its dominant position on the market, the risks of this contract for the development of Free Software...
Under chosen terms, this document is a factual denunciation of the framework agreement project and of Microsoft's practices. In his conclusions, the rapporteur points out that « the present issue is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the relations between the French administration and Microsoft, relations that now depend on political and eminently contentious matters, marked by Microsoft financial and economical power. » (our translation).
The Ministry of Defence's dependency on Microsoft is even more unacceptable given that the Gendarmerie Nationale successfully uses Free Software to ensure its I.T. independence.
For a Microsoft detox and the respect of the Prime Minister's demands
In the end of September 2012 was published the Ayrault circular presenting recommendations relative to the use of Free Software in French administration . This text being intended for the state's I.T. services, its respect naturally imposes the suspension of the Microsoft contract renegotiation and complete transparency upon this issue. « April encourages the French government to establish a real public policy in favor of Free Software. This goes through a transparent and open-to-all negotiation before going further with this contract, this is why April calls for the French government to suspend the ongoing procedure to start over on better bases » says Lionel Allorge, President of April.
Pioneer of Free Software in France, April is since 1996 a major player in the democratisation and the spread of Free Software and open standards to the general public, professionals and institutions in the French-speaking world. In the digital era that is ours, it also aims to inform the public on the dangers of an exclusive appropriation of information an knowledge by private interests.
The association has over 5,000 members, using or producing Free Software.
For further information, the press articles published back then (in French): Microsoft-Ministère de la Défense : un contrat qui dérange (Le Monde Informatique), Le ministère de la Défense dit ne pas rouler que pour Microsoft… sans réellement convaincre (LeMagIT)