NSW government issues call-out for tech and procurement experts

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The way government is buying has changed in NSW.

The New South Wales government is continuing its ambitious program to drastically reform its use of technology and procurement to deliver policy outcomes, issuing an official call-out to industry experts to sit on its two most influential strategy panels.

The state’s Finance and Services Minister, Dominic Perrottet on Wednesday called for expressions from interest for prospective members of his department’s ICT Advisory Panel
and the Procurement Industry Advisory Group, key industry engagement mechanisms that have been credited with helping to undo what was a once heavily centralised and largely locked down system of tendering that had rankled suppliers for almost a decade.

A key feature of NSW’s reforms has been the eschewing of expensive and administratively burdensome tendering mechanisms in favour of a catalogue or internal marketplace of evaluated pre-approved suppliers that can then sell to clients across the state government once they get on the official list.

The move has deliberately opened up the government market to smaller firms that would otherwise have been left out in the cold because of the high barriers to entry. The payback for the government is that it gets greater competition for its business, forcing larger firms to innovate or potentially lose business.

But to get to that point the government has needed to bring suppliers ‘into-the-tent’ by creating a relatively independent source of advice that is, at least in theory, separated from the direct commercial interests of those sitting on it – and it’s those positions now up for contest on an annual basis.

“We are looking for the brightest and sharpest industry minds to help lead and deliver our customer-focussed reform agenda,” Mr Perrottet said.

But lobbyists need not apply. The EOI documents  spell out clearly that “people on the NSW Government’s Lobbyist Register are not entitled to be appointed to NSW Government Boards or Committees.”

“Members are appointed as individuals for their expertise, rather than as representatives of their employing organisations, the documents say.

“Membership of the Industry Advisory Group and working groups is subject to making a declaration concerning conflict of interest, and responsibilities must be undertaken in accordance with the Conduct Guidelines for Members of NSW Government Boards and Committees.”

The documents also stress those obligations extend to “confidentiality requirements . . .as well as any applicable Code of Conduct.”

There’s also a decent hint on what the government wants to see, even if it isn’t pre-empting what it wants to hear.

“In 2015, we want to look at innovative approaches to contracting and how best to engage micro-businesses, regional businesses and new business start-ups,” Mr Perrottet said.

Anyone looking to put in an expression of interest for either the Procurement Industry Advisory Group or the ICT Advisory Panel needs to make a submission by 14th  November 2014.

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