The Office of Small and Medium Enterprises (OSME) was created in 2005 within Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) to advocate on behalf of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in federal procurement. OSME improves SMEs access to government contract opportunities by reducing procurement barriers, simplifying the contracting process, providing advice to SMEs wishing to do business with the government, collaborating to improve procurement policies and best practices and working with SMEs to ensure their concerns are brought forward and heard.
In 2006, the Government increased OSME's regional presence through the Federal Accountability Act Action Plan and established six offices across the country. Since its creation, OSME has assisted over 53,000 individuals and suppliers through outreach seminars, trade shows, and meetings. In addition, since 2006-2007, PWGSC has awarded, on average, more than 43% of the total value of contracts transacted with businesses located in Canada to SMEs.
OSME is committed to eliminating barriers to SME participation in federal procurement. Previously there were fees associated with accessing contracting opportunities posted on the Government Electronic Tendering Services (GETS) hosted through MERXTM. While there are still user fees associated with accessing some contract opportunities (for example, provincial and private sector) posted on MERXTM, the Government has eliminated the fees to access the system so that suppliers can view and order all federal procurement opportunities at no cost.
Since 2007, PWGSC has made the following enhancements to the GETS:
- Ensured consistent language and terminology was employed on the MERX website;
- Added additional links on MERX to the Buy and Sell website, a site which provides suppliers with enhanced information on how to do business with the Government of Canada;
- Provided suppliers with the ability to determine the number of times an opportunity has been viewed as well as the identity of those suppliers who have downloaded the document so that suppliers can make informed business decisions;
- Clarified and highlighted the process to register on MERX without providing a credit card number, so that suppliers are aware that they can access federal opportunities free of charge;
- Provided a way for users to locate and review all current Government of Canada Standing Offer Opportunity Notices that are published on the MERX main site; and,
- Added an email notification to advise suppliers of any amendments to solicitation documents that have been previously ordered to ensure suppliers have up-to-date information.
In addition to enhancing GETS, the Government, through PWGSC, has undertaken the following initiatives:
- Mandatory standard templates for its solicitation documents to provide a consistent design and simpler language for PWGSC issued procurement documents;
- The review of PWGSC issued solicitation documents for mandatory commodities in order to ensure that the requirements do not pose challenges to SMEs;
- Regular free seminars across the country to suppliers on how to conduct business with the Government;
- Demonstrations to suppliers on how to use electronic systems, including the Supplier Registration Information (SRI), Contract History, and GETS (MERX); and,
- Engagement with industry to better identify the source of SME concerns with the procurement process.
The Government, through PWGSC, is undertaking additional initiatives, including:
- The continuous development and improvement of supplier seminars. This includes a revised seminar with general tips and tools for responding to solicitation documents. This is currently being piloted and expected to officially launch in Winter 2010.
- The development of a governance and process framework for the management of commodities that will improve the ability of SMEs to comment on overall procurement strategies, through mechanisms such as Requests for Information and supplier consultations; and
The development of an e-procurement strategy, which includes a "single-window" portal for suppliers to access information on procurement.