“Open Bar” Microsoft - French Ministry of Defence: Ministry answers our request for release of administrative documents

Open Bar blacked-out documents

On Tuesday 5 February 2013, PC INpact had revealed the ongoing renegotiation of the so-called “Open Bar” framework agreement between Microsoft and the French Ministry of Defence. The initial contract had been signed in 2009 without any call for tender and had departed from public-procurement principles. April had then denounced the deal, and asked for the negotiations between Microsoft and the French Ministry of Defence to be adjourned, in order to provide transparency to this dossier. On Thursday 17 April 2013, the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné (The Chained Duck) made new disclosures about the reasons that lead the French armed forces to “surrender to Microsoft”.

To ensure transparency on this affair, April, on 12 February 2013, requested release of the relevant administrative documents from the Ministry of Defence and from the Advisory Board on Public Procurements. The Ministry's reply just came in and consists in a bundle of about 200 printed pages. We will study these documents, but the cursory reading we made of them doesn't boost our optimism about the actual transparency of this dossier.

For instance, one of the documents is a report from a Defence Ministry's expert group. This report, entitled “Evaluation of the draft framework contract with Microsoft Corporation”, includes a risk study. Reading the five pages about risks doesn't take long but is a bit… disappointing. Likewise, the conclusion of the report amounts to a nice-looking blacked-out page.

Then again, we still have no news of the Advisory Board on Public Procurements. It might be out of stock on black markers.