A decision by the Dutch government to award Microsoft a 147 million euro (£100m) IT contract has sparked a big row, online magazine Webwereld has reported [in Dutch].

Two years ago, a motion was passed by the Netherlands government to the effect that all IT systems in the public sector should use open standards. The MP who initiated the motion, the Green Party's Kees Vendrik, now fears that his motion may be ignored.

At the time, Microsoft's Dutch CEO criticised Vendrik's motion as being "one-sided". But with a definitive vote on the contract due to take place next week, MPs are demanding an explanation as to why the mandatory public tendering process was not carried out.

This is not the first time a Dutch public sector body has hewn its own path though. As the IDA (Interchange of Data Between Administrations) website reported a month ago, the town of Utrecht nixed open source, saying that it did not view open source software "to be a proper alternative for Microsoft programs. The city wants to standardise on Microsoft products and is involved in the negotiations of the Ministry of Justice with the American software company to lower licence costs by volume contracts."

An argument then took off between the Utrecht city council and the Green Party's representatives, who wanted the city to examine Microsoft source code for security holes. For cost and other reasons, the city turned down the request, saying that, "the court says the municipality is not planning on purchasing the source code, since autonomous software development is not one of their tasks." It added that it did not consider it necessary to inspect the Microsoft source code.

However, this is thought to be a move to open-source software, encouraged by Vendrik's motion. A survey undertaken last year by the Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT) suggested that open source is making gains in the Dutch public sector, and awareness of it was increasing. The survey was however commissioned by the OSOSS (Open Standards and Open Source Software).

And the town of Haarlem has reportedly already moved over 2,000 desktops over to OpenOffice in order to save on its 500,000 euro software licence costs. Reports suggest that training and migration cost Haarlem burghers 50,000 euros (about £35,000), representing a saving of about 90 per cent over an upgrade to Microsoft Office 2000.