Govt Programs – OSME

© 2008 FrontLine Defence (Vol 5, No 2)

Canada’s 2.4 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for 45% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. They are crucial to Canada’s ­economy and to federal government procurement.

“Since smaller firms are often highly competitive in their respective industries, SMEs are key players in achieving a more cost-effective procurement system that delivers best value for Canadians,” explains PWGSC Minister Michael Fortier. “Our performance in terms of the value of contracts won by SMEs exceeds even that of the United States, which has an explicit set-aside program for SMEs.” Canadian SMEs are receiving 37% of the total value of all contracts awarded compared to only 27% in the United States.

The Minister recently toured the country to meet and encourage small business representatives to bid for contracts with the Government of Canada. He also explained how PWGSC is taking steps to make the process more streamlined and is seeking ideas on how to make it even more open and accessible to SMEs.

Operating under PWGSC’s Acquisi­tions Branch, Office of Small and Medium Enterprises (OSME) and its six regional offices provide information sessions, counselling and support tools to small and medium-sized businesses throughout the country. By encouraging smaller firms to take the same steps as larger companies toward government business opportunities, OSME is not only helping communities across the country, it is also helping the government get better value for taxpayers. OSME is fostering a relationship that goes beyond the issue of access. Its efforts are geared toward breaking down the barriers that small companies face when trying to sell to the Government of Canada.

“Navigating the procurement system can be daunting, especially for those new to the process,” explains OSME’s Director General, Marshall Moffat. “We guide ­businesses through the steps and acquaint them with government procurement opportunities. In doing so, we learn about their challenges and work from within the procurement system to make it easier, and simpler and more fair for them.”

As part of its ongoing operations, OSME offers seminars that inform businesses about federal opportunities and how to go about accessing these opportunities.

“The key is to familiarize vendors with the range of our business services at their disposal,” says Mr. Moffat. “They can call OSME’s 1-800 number or the local OSME Office to connect with a ­representative who will get them off on the right foot.”

For example, OSME can help smaller businesses register with on-line procurement vehicles that increase the visibility of their goods and services:

  • The Supplier Registration Information (SRI) database is used by departments and agencies in the federal government to identify potential suppliers.
  • PWGSC’s Professional Services On-line database specializes in professional services contracting in areas like human resources, IT and management consulting – an invaluable tool for both federal procurement officers looking for these services and companies looking to market their capabilities.
  • SELECT’s database of companies in the construction, architectural and engine­er­ing fields, as well as related maintenance and consulting services, is equally effective in bridging suppliers with federal buyers in these fields.

OSME also works with suppliers looking for opportunities posted on MERX – the online tendering service used by the federal government to advertise many of its opportunities. There are a wide variety of opportunities posted on MERX and smaller businesses can compete either on their own or through joint ventures with other firms. OSME helps smaller companies recognize these opportunities and steer their way through the various steps.

“The government is also working to find ways to procure more innovative products, often produced by SMEs, in order to obtain better value for money and support innovation in the economy,” explains Minister Fortier.

While the main challenge for OSME is to help small and medium enterprises navigate the government procurement and ensure that the system is fair to SMEs, one of their key priorities is to increase their visibility so they can help as many small businesses as possible. Last October, in support of Small Business Week, OSME regional offices staged over 150 events for small and medium-sized enterprises, and met with over 2,500 individuals and ­businesses. As well, the number of firms registered to do business with PWGSC now increases by approximately 800 per month, in part due to OSME’s efforts.

“Small and medium-sized businesses need to know that we are here and easily reachable,” says Mr. Moffat. “Our seminars are free, and there is no cost to reach out to one of our representatives. If you’re considering doing business with the Government of Canada, give us a call.”

For more information about OSME call 1-800-811-1148, or check the web:

Check OSME seminars in your region:
Editor’s Note: This article deals with trade and set-asides in general. Statistics specific to the aerospace and defence markets were unavailable at press time. FrontLine Defence will publish additional information in our next edition.
© Frontline Defence 2008