A shake-up of the ACT Government’s procurement agency is under way as part of an overhaul of the way contracts are awarded for government projects in response to the scathing Auditor-General’s report in to the Campbell Primary School upgrade.
The government has tabled its response to the audit report, which found the procurement tender evaluation process lacked probity and tenderers were not dealt with fairly, impartially and consistently.
A key finding was that the Acting Executive Group Manager, Business Services Division (Education Directorate) as the Delegate overruled the Tender Evaluation Team’s recommendation that the contract be awarded to Manteena in favour of rival Lendlease.
The Auditor-General found there were governance and administrative shortcomings that had potential for conflicts of interest or undue influence to go unnoticed.
The government agreed, or agreed in principle, with all six recommendations from the Auditor-General’s report.
Education Minister Yvette Berry said Special Minister of State Chris Steel was overseeing a review of Procurement ACT’s performance to see where it is failing to provide support and information during procurement processes.
She said that work was already under way independently of and prior to the government’s response.
Actions being undertaken by the Education Directorate and Major Projects Canberra include stronger guidance and information on roles, responsibilities and authority including that of probity advisors, more training, better records management to ensure decisions are clearly documented and improved engagement with tenderers and stakeholders.
Ms Berry said the Education Directorate would ensure the probity of procurement processes and fully implement the government’s response to the audit, including additional independent probity advice and training for tender evaluation panels.
This appears to address the Auditor-General’s key recommendation to “explicitly require the preparation of independent probity advice where a delegate or decision-maker seeks to overrule the recommendation of the tender evaluation team”.
“The Education Directorate is committed to ensuring that in future procurements where delegates have not accepted or have amended the recommendations of a tender evaluation panel, those decisions will be fully documented in accordance with the Government’s response,” Ms Berry said.
She said the government continued to work collaboratively across directorates to ensure that the Auditor-General’s recommendations result in improvements.
“The changes made following this audit will help ensure that across government, public servants are supported to meet this community’s high expectations of transparency and accountability,” Ms Berry said.
But Canberra Liberals Leader Elizabeth Lee said the government had admitted the system was broken.
“The fact they need to reform the system shows there are significant problems,” she said.
“It is astounding that it has taken a scathing Auditor’s-General Report into the Campbell Primary Modernisation Project for this government to realise there are issues with procurements in the ACT.”
Ms Lee said the government needed to address its “culture of secrecy” and questioned how many other procurements might also be suspect.
The Integrity Commission is weighing whether to launch an investigation into the Campbell Primary procurement and an Assembly committee has launched a fresh inquiry.