Microsoft Dynamics ERP Offers Discount to Public Sector/Government Agencies Who Can’t Accept Free Licenses

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Microsoft is currently offering a “Buy 1 License Get 2 Free” offer for Dynamics GP, SL and NAV accounting software products through June 24, 2011.  But the fine print points out that “Public Sector customers are excluded from this ‘Buy 1, get 3’ offer”.  Why the discrimination? The problem is the word “free”. Public Sector organizations are not allowed to accept free gifts.  Fortunately, Microsoft has an alternate offer for Public sector customers - Get 67% off the first three user licenses. Public sector companies save the same amount of money, but nothing is given for free.

I have been to Microsoft events in the past where every attendee gets a free gift. Except for government/public sector employees who have to pick up their name badges and walk away empty handed. And I once sent a small year-end gift to all our clients, but one client at a municipality returned the gift with a polite note that it could not be accepted.

This prompted me to do some research about why public sector companies cannot accept gifts.

According to Wikipidia the Public Sector, sometimes referred to as the state sector is a part of the state that deals with either the production, delivery and allocation of goods and services by and for the government or its citizens, whether national, regional or local/municipal. Examples of public sector activity range from delivering social security, administering urban planning and organizing national defenses.

A booklet called “Managing Gifts and Benefits in the Public Sector” explains that Public officials and employees should 1) never solicit gifts and benefits 2) never accept gifts of money and 3) always consider the value and purpose of a gift or benefit before making any decisions about accepting it.

Basically the reason for this rule is simple - gifts could be used as bribery.

But what is considered a gift? It seems that this is not always a black and white issue. The definition of what is acceptable varies state by state and even state agency by state agency.

The state of Connecticut “Guide to the Code of Ethics for Public Officials and State Employees” says: A gift is defined as anything of value that you (or in certain circumstances a member of your family) directly and personally receive unless you provide consideration of equal or greater value (e.g., pay for the item). However in this same Connecticut code it states, “There are a total of 17 separate gift exceptions in the Code.”

Of course the main way to determine if something is a gift is the perceived monetary value. Each state agency has a policy on a specific dollar amount that defines what is considered acceptable.

So some agencies can accept a box of chocolates if they feel they are worth less than say, $25. While other agencies cannot. I found out that the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut have a gift limit of $50.

An additional consideration is whether the gift it is a single occurrence or one of a series. A series of small gifts or benefits, even with nominal value (like pens or baseball caps) may have a combined value that exceeds the agency’s stipulated maximum.

But just when you thought you understood the rules, the rule book makes the point that the dollar amount is not ALWAYS the deciding factor.

What do you think, can a government employee could accept a gift in this scenario below?

Example: You are in the process of reviewing a bid for work at your agency. The contractor submitting the bid provides you with a gift certificate for $45 to a popular West Hartford eatery for you to use on your own. You have not previously received anything of value from this individual.

Answer: No. Even though the certificate is under the permissible $50 food and beverage limit, this gift is not allowed because the contractor or his/her representative will not be in attendance while the food and beverage is being consumed.

Other examples of prohibited "gifts" include: sports tickets, costs of drinks and meals, travel expenses, conference fees, gifts of appreciation, entertainment expenses, free use of vacation homes and complimentary tickets to charitable events.

So what should a state employee do if they receive an illegal box of chocolates?  The state of MA rule book (Introduction to the Conflict of Interest Law for the Public Sector) suggests: “If a prohibited gift is offered: you may refuse or return it; you may donate it to a non-profit organization, provided you do not take the tax write-off; you may pay the giver the full value of the gift; or, in the case of certain types of gifts, it may be considered "a gift to your public employer", provided it remains in the office and does not ever go home with you.”

Two Microsoft Dynamics ERP licenses are certainly worth more than $50. So a public sector company cannot accept them for free. However, they can purchase a Microsoft Dynamics ERP software system at 67% off the list price. (What is the list price of Microsoft Dynamics GP?)

But the same fine print applies in either case. Read: Eligibility & Exclusions for the Microsoft Dynamics ERP “Buy 1, Get 3″ Sales Offer: Understanding the Fine Print. And remember, free or discounted, this offer expires on June 24, 2011.

For full information visit the Microsoft Dynamics ERP “Buy 1 Get 3” promotion page. Scroll down to fine print and click on: Learn about an alternate offer for Public Sector customers.

If you are a Connecticut or Massachusetts Public Sector company that is interested in Microsoft Dynamics GP, contact CAL Business Solutions. We can help you get the right accounting/ERP software at the right price, without giving you anything for free!

By CAL Business Solutions, Connecticut/Massachusetts Microsoft Dynamics GP Partner

(Note: this information in this post is based solely on my research and novice interpretation. I have never worked for a public agency and make no guarantee that the info here is accurate or complete)

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