Great to hear from you. I’ve been away on a complete dis-connected
break for once (lovely) and was surprised to see quite so much mail on
my return. So forgive me if I miss the context.
2/ We need to deal radically with the problem of conflicts of interest:
a company that has an employee at the BoD should not be allowed to
respond to a call for tenders from TDF.
This issue seems to me to be routinely inflated and used to tar
directors with suspicions of suspicions and to extend the area they of
things they’re excluded from unreasonable in my view. So let me share a
chunk of reply publicly that I somehow sent to an internal only list
while replying to an older public criticism from Andreas Mantke on a
different topic - perhaps it helps to have a few facts =)
Board members associated with companies who were bidding on TDF tenders
have been completely and successfully excluded from any details of
competing tenders, the selection process, who voted what way, what staff
said, what legal counsel was provided, they had no insight into
contracts and decisions made. They were completely recused.
That is/was appropriate and right, our statutes and common sense made
this clear. Obviously we can make the rules there even clearer and more
helpful too - why not?
However even better than the written rules - there was no leakage from
directors or staff involved that I ever saw: no quid-pro quos, nothing -
However - there are lots of details that are not accurate floating
about around this old process. I have only part of the picture but here
is my response to some of the mis-presentations I’ve seen. I think we
need to avoid some massive, post-truth set of accusations of various
(often mutually contradicting) bad things, let me take a few of them;
lets take this one:
On the other hand, the commercial company has to assume there are
other competing companies in the process, so every bid is (and has
to be) risky and as cheap as possible.
Please stop kidding: I currently know only two commercial companies
that are able to bid on LibreOffice source code tender. Thus there is
no competing market yet. It’s more of a monopoly / oligopoly market.
And nearly everyone knows about the formation of prices in such market
from her / his daily experience.
This is factually wrong - see list of people / companies below. But
more simply - many people from their daily experience know to get two or
three quotes when they buy a project to get a fair market price rather
than just going with the first number they see. Usually you don’t need
Let me put some rough, perhaps not already public, numbers to this -
C’bra has bid on ~24 tenders and won ~7 - ie. under 1/3rd of them. We’ve
been in business for ~10 years. A rough adding up of what TDF has paid
in total comes to some small (single digit?) %age of both TDF’s income,
and Collabora’s. That seems neither excessive nor under-contested to me.
As for loosing money on tenders it is worth reading:
Winner's curse - Wikipedia - it is easy to see
tendering as a one-bid auction for the work. I wonder what experience of
bidding for tenders, and estimating the associated risks you have.
Signing a fixed-price contract to deliver something like this requires a
really deep understanding of the problem area to manage the risk.
One of the interesting things here though is that while -normally- you
might expect there to be bad feeling & concern between parties winning
and loosing tenders - indeed I hear of people litigating these things
left and right - at TDF we have something like the opposite.
I’m happy when TDF actually manages to execute and spend some of its
(growing) cash-hoard to improve LibreOffice. I’m grateful to the
tendering committee for getting on with it. If the work is won by
someone else, selected in a fair process - all strength to them.
Hopefully they didn’t get the winners curse too badly and it doesn’t
negatively impact their business. Hopefully we get the full
functionality vs. exactly what is tendered (also a problem).
At TDF - interestingly - what hostility and aggravation there is on
display appears to be directed against the suppliers even though they
deliver great work, often adding extra unpaid work to make it better
than what was asked for, showing flexibility and so on. As I think
Laszlo captured well: having passionate and competent people who love
the project and have similar goals around this problem space is a great
strength for TDF.
Some of the concerns articulated here sound like catch-22’s when
we want a more diverse ecosystem and project
companies should not bid on tenders if they have affiliated
staff on the board (despite the very effective separation of
affiliated staff from awarding tenders)
we need more people / companies to submit tender bids
(which cost serious money and risk to create)
we also want to reduce the budget for tendering
we think we’re paying over-market rates
but somehow bids are also too cheap for others to compete,
so we need to incentivize new people by paying more.
And so on, and on it goes for years.
TDF needs to decide what goals it wants to achieve over a certain
period, and then adopt a positive and effective approach to delivering
that. It also needs to properly include people in its community and
governance in line with its statutes wherever possible.
TDF should aim to forge a healthy and viable relationship based on
a fair exchange of value with all of its suppliers. Burning the trust
that makes those relationships constructive is deeply damaging.
Beyond that - TDF has had a lot of contracted suppliers, and
respondents to tenders; that’s public but hard to dig out I think we
have had at least: around half of the staff - plus Lanedo, Igalia, Khaled Hosney,
Laszlo Nemeth, Markus Mohrhard, Armin Le Grand, Collabora,
CIB, Allotropia, Marco Marinello, Hypra, and more I forgot.
As regards advertising the tenders widely - I’m sure TDF could
execute on that better - I believe TDF already incentivizes new
suppliers to try to get them skilled up and to gain diversity. Given the
size of the available budgets - I imagine this is a challenging ask.
Hopefully there are some useful facts in there for the community to
think over, and perhaps get a more balanced view here.
There are much more serious problems at TDF than tendering.
 So IIRC there was one single embarassing lapse of this - which one
board member was responsible for - sending a single +1 style vote E-mail
from you on a tender to the whole directors list: I have no idea how it
happened; but in 10 years that’s a good record of isolation.