Inquiry to focus on Commonwealth procurement

A federal parliamentary committee has launched an inquiry into the way Commonwealth entities manage contracts following a string of critical reports on various agencies.

JCPAA Chair Julian HIll

A series of major inquiries into government procurement relating to the Australian War Memorial, My Health Record, migrant English programs and the Department of Defence had highlighted ‘serious failings’, Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit chair Julian Hill said.

“Recent audit reports have highlighted similar issues ‘downstream’ of procurement in how agencies manage contracts once executed,” Mr Hill said.

“The Committee will examine whether the frameworks supporting contract management by various Commonwealth entities are fit for purpose to ensure project delivery.”

Mr Hill said the inquiry will look at a range of issues including procurement expertise within agencies, governance, record-keeping and performance measures. It will also consider policies and guidelines of a number of recently audited agencies, and whether current frameworks and practices are fit for purpose.

Mr Hill said effective contract management is crucial to getting good results from government procurement.

“This is a vital capability for public sector agencies but one that commonly goes under the radar and is often lacking for a number of reasons,” he said.

Submissions to the inquiry can be made until August 15.

As reported by Government News, the national audit office found in a report released in April that redevelopment contracts for the War Memorial were split and varied to avoid having to seek ministerial approval, and found  ‘deficiencies … in the quality of advice to the minister’ with regard to the controversial $540 million project.

It also found shortcomings in record keeping, management of conflicts of interest and documentation of value for money assessments.

An audit of procurement of my Health Record by the Australian Digital Health Agency released in June found the ADHA had not conducted procurement of an operator effectively, with $700 million worth of contract variations added to the contract with Accenture since 2012.

A national audit office report into Adult Migrant English Programs also found appropriate contractual arrangements were not in place with the 13 general service providers.

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