Request for Tenders for the $5billion national broadband network closed on Wednesday 25 November. Given the nature and scale of this project there were only five bidders. Surprisingly, Telstra’s bid as the largest supplier was only 13 pages in total while other bids ran into 100s of pages. So what is going on here? A high stakes game of brinkmanship between the Government and Telstra as two opposing 500lb gorillas?
If Telstra prevails and wins the contract the implications for small and medium businesses could be far reaching, especially in Canberra where our home grown private sector does not have the same push and shove as the Telstra’s of this world. Rather, they rely on the system; the system where non compliant bids are set aside and not considered further – end of game.
This predictability and transparency is extremely important for Canberra firms who see federal government contracts as a means of growing their businesses, particularly those in the knowledge economy where a good contract can give you national exposure, good distribution and secure cash flows to fund growth. Under the current system little guys can and do win. But if Telstra is eventually successful the little guys faith in “the system” will be severely undermined. I can just see business people across the ACT region throwing their hands in the air saying, “What’s the use! How do we have faith in a system that allows big companies to run roughshod over the rules?”
At Corfocus this makes us very cranky. Why? Because we consult to companies that want help to win government tenders and one of the central tenets of our services is that the system is fair and transparent and if you put in a compliant tender that makes a strong case and has competitive pricing then you stand a good chance of winning. In short, the rules apply to all equally and the best tender wins.
How can you trust a system that buckles under pressure from 500 lb gorillas? I hope this does not eventuate but if it does then maybe the ACT business community should lodge a No Confidence vote in the government’s procurement system. What do you think?