External service providers
Our procurement practices reflect the policies and principles outlined in the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. We focus on:
- value for money
- encouraging competition
- efficient, effective, economical and ethical use of government resources
- accountability and transparency
- compliance with Australian Government policies.
Our divisions are responsible for their own procurement, subject to the accountable authority instructions and supporting departmental guidelines that complement the Commonwealth Procurement Rules.
We engage consultants where we lack specialist expertise or when independent assessment, research or review is required. Consultants are typically engaged to investigate or diagnose a defined issue or problem; carry out defined reviews or evaluations; or provide independent advice, information or creative solutions to assist in the department’s decision-making. Before engaging consultants, we take into account the skills and resources required for the task, the skills available internally and the cost-effectiveness of engaging external expertise.
We also enter into purchaser–provider arrangements with a range of government, industry and private sector agencies for services to improve the productivity, competitiveness and sustainability of Australia’s agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries.
Managing our consultants
In 2014–15, the department entered into 59 new consultancy contracts. Total actual expenditure of active consultancy contracts was $3 146 584.
Table 29 shows the number and value of consultancies with a value greater than $10 000 and total expenditure on consultancies for 2014–15 and the two previous years.
|Number of consultancies with a value greater than $10 000 let during the year||59||50||76|
|Total value of consultancies with a value greater than $10 000 let during the year||$4 458 750||$3 835 413||$4 515 195|
|Actual expenditure on new and ongoing consultancies during the year||$3 146 584||$4 018 042||$4 822 235|
Managing our purchases
We improved our expense management system to support whole-of-government travel provider payment and acquittal processes.
Significant procurement activities conducted in 2014–15 included:
- engaging a national property management provider
- providing kennelling and transportation for detector dogs in Melbourne and Sydney
- establishing a panel of providers for simultaneous interpretation and translation services.
Procurement initiatives to support small business
The department supports small business participation in the Commonwealth procurement market. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and small enterprise participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance’s website.We recognise the importance of ensuring small businesses are paid on time. The results of the Survey of Australian Government Payments to Small Business are available on the Treasury’s website.
Our procurement practices support SMEs by using:
- the Commonwealth Contracting Suite for low-risk procurements valued at under $200 000
- small business engagement principles outlined in the government’s industry innovation and competitiveness agenda, such as communicating in clear, simple language and presenting information in an accessible format
- credit cards where possible for purchases under $10 000.
Procurement of national property management services
Engaging a national property management service provider was a major procurement challenge for the year. The provision of on-site facilities managers at the department’s major regional offices and at the new post-entry quarantine facility at Mickleham, Victoria, was a key element of the tender.
To ensure the best outcome we engaged a consultant to provide independent property advice.
Other contracts information
The secretary did not exempt any contracts let during 2014–15 from being published on AusTender on the basis that publication would disclose exempt matters under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
All contracts valued at $100 000 or more (GST inclusive) let during the year provided for the Auditor-General to have access to the contractor’s premises.
Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website.
Farm Household Allowance
The Department of Human Services delivered the Interim Farm Household Allowance and the Farm Household Allowance programmes on our behalf. We established a bilateral management arrangement and services schedule to ensure agreed service standards were met. A Drought and Rural Assistance Programme Board oversaw delivery of the programme.
The state and territory jurisdictions delivered the Drought, Farm Finance and Drought Recovery Concessional Loans Schemes on behalf of the Commonwealth. We managed these arrangements through a loan agreement and service level agreement.
Rural Financial Counselling Service
The Australian Government last conducted a competitive tender for the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) in 2006–07. That tender resulted in the appointment of the current RFCS providers. The latest funding round commenced on 1 July 2011 with an original end-date of 30 June 2015. This has been extended to 31 December 2015.
We use a deed of grant and deeds of variation to manage RFCS providers. These deeds outline the requirements that must be fulfilled before the service can be paid. We make payments each quarter after all reporting requirements have been met.
We monitor services to ensure high-quality service delivery and to encourage and support sustainable outcomes for RFCS clients. Each counsellor must report on the work conducted each month. Each service must also submit regular reports to fulfil its governance and corporate reporting responsibilities.
Reviewing the impact of illegal logging regulations
In January 2015, we engaged the Australian Bureau of Statistics to provide supporting business statistics to an independent review of the impact of the illegal logging regulations on small business. ABARES analysed the information on differences in the characteristics of importers of regulated timber products across four different business size categories.
Scientific and economic researchABARES research
We enter into purchaser–provider arrangements with a range of government, industry and private sector agencies to deliver scientific and economic research services.
In 2014–15, ABARES had service provider arrangements with the following organisations:
- Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
- Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority
- Australian Wool Innovation
- Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA)—University of Melbourne
- Dairy Australia
- Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia
- Department of the Environment
- Department of Fisheries Western Australia
- Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development
- Fisheries Research and Development Corporation
- Forest and Wood Products Australia
- Grains Research and Development Corporation
- Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited
- National Water Commission
- Plant Health Australia
- Murray–Darling Basin Authority
- Meat & Livestock Australia
- Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation
- Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
- University of Tasmania
- University of South Australia
Advertising and market research
Payments to advertising agencies, market research organisations, polling organisations, direct mail organisations and media advertising organisations are set out in Table 30.
The department did not undertake any advertising campaigns in 2014–15.
|Advertising agencies—creative head hours billed||–|
|Market research organisations||$236 097.86|
|Essence Communications||Purchase of the department’s non-campaign market research |
Community attitudes towards Australian fisheries management ($198 308.00)
|Taylor Nelson Sofres Australia Pty Ltd||Research and recommendations on employee change management approach ($37 789.86)||–|
|Direct mail organisations||–|
|Media advertising organisations—including recruitment and tender notices||$143 302.01|
|Purchase of the department’s non-campaign advertising nationwide||$106 072.92|
|State and territory reimbursements||Reimbursed to state and territory delivery agencies for advertising booked to advertise Farm Finance Concessional Loans rounds||$31 277.02|
a All figures are inclusive of GST.