By Julian Bajkowski
The chairman of the Coaltion’s deregulation taskforce, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, has outlined a raft of changes to how businesses sell into the federal government as part of a bid to lower the cost of doing business with Canberra.
The Coalition is proposing to set up a central register of federal government suppliers so that bidders for work and business would effectively only have to register their credentials once in order to vie for work across different departments and agencies once they are approved.
The proposed move is intended to cut administrative overheads and the level of red tape the Coalition feels is now incumbent on suppliers who often need to repeatedly submit the same information in different formats.
Senator Sinodinos has also clarified earlier reports that the Coalition may be moving towards a more centralised model of whole-of-government procurement, particularly around information technology.
Such a move would be unusual because the Coalition has typically favoured easier access from a greater range of competitors in order to maximise marketplace competition for government work.
The Coalition’s suggested red-tape reductions broadly mirror similar initiatives in Britain where reforms allow pre-approved bidders to compete for business in what is effectively an internal government supermarket.
Senator Sinodinos, previously the long-serving chief-of-staff to former Prime Minister John Howard, told Government News that procurement reforms on the table included a “common form contract” as well as short form contracts and whole of government probity guidelines.
“We want to get away from silo thinking” Senator Sinodinos said.
He said that the Coalition was consulting business in what they would like to see to help streamline processes and lower the cost of doing business on both sides to create more value.
The streamlined processes would apply to both grants administration and procurement.
Grants administration has remained a bugbear of bureaucracy for funding applicants for decades because of the increasing amount of paperwork required to be in the running for funding.
A key disadvantage of complex and convoluted procurement and grants processes is that agile and innovative contenders can be excluded by default because of high administrative overheads.
A further issue is that high overheads in bidding for business potentially stifle competition and innovation that the government may otherwise benefit from because unwieldy processes unintentionally favour larger incumbents with the financial resources to wait out long decision-making timeframes.
More controversially the Coalition has also re-floated the idea of reintroducing performance bonuses for senior public servants that were scrapped by the incoming Kevin Rudd government following John Howard’s election loss in 2007.
However while the bonuses went under Mr Rudd, the public service was spared the more interventionist approach of removing departmental heads as the government changed hands favoured by former head of Prime Minister and Cabinet Max Moore-Wilton who was given the nickname of Max-the-Axe for some of his management techniques.
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