Canberra to tighten procurement rules

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Canberra to tighten procurement rules
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'Guidelines' to become 'rules'.

The Department of Finance has revealed it will revise Commonwealth procurement guidelines as part of a broad project aimed at streamlining the complex process.

Speaking at an event in Canberra, the Department's first assistant secretary for the procurement division John Grant said that suppliers and buyers were currently required to familiarise themselves with 758 pages of rules, guidelines, instructions and procedures.

It had led to a "wide range of procurement approaches" being used, Grant said, indicating the time was ripe for a simplifed, tailored approach for agency staff and industry suppliers.

The revised guidelines would come into effect on July 1.

It was likely the guidelines would be rebranded from Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines to Commonwealth Procurement Rules to reinforce to government agency staff that they were mandatory, not discretionary.

There was anecdotal evidence that some agency procurement staff tended to give less primacy to the guidelines mainly because they were called “guidelines”.

Grant said that the requirement advertise any tender worth over $80,000 on AusTender would be retained.

Grant said the Department also planned to review chief executive Instructions that agency staff had to comply with as well.

He also revealed that over the past six months, the Department had convened a senior procurement officers reference group, which met five times a year.

The group attracted about 80 officials for high level briefings and to promote exchange on good purchasing practices.

Grant said that the Department also planned improvements to reduce what it saw as unnecessary costs for suppliers wanting to do business with the Government.

In particular, it would accelerate moves to rationalise agency-specific procurement panels.

Grant said almost every agency seemed to have its own panel of lawyers or accounting firms to farm out selective tenders.

In practice the same companies tended to appear on each of these panels. It could cost those companies at least $50,000 or more to go through the procedure of applying for each panel.

Finance would encourage far more piggy-backing or multi-agency use of contracts as well, Grant said.

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