26 September 2023

Audit finds purchases lead to complaints

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A performance audit of procurement complaints handling across four Government entities has found that while the handling of complaints was largely effective, the procurement framework limits the ability of suppliers to make complaints and seek remedies.

In his report Procurement Complaints Handling, Auditor-General Grant Hehir said he assessed the effectiveness of procurement complaints’ handling by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the Department of Finance (Finance), the Department of Industry, Science and Resources (DISR) and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

Mr Hehir said the Australian Government procurement framework limited the ability of suppliers to make complaints and seek remedies, and did not adequately encourage complaints from suppliers.

“Operating within this framework, procurement complaint procedures and handling across the four entities subject to audit was largely effective,” Mr Hehir said.

“While the Government Procurement (Judicial Review) Act 2018 (GPJR Act) was introduced to establish an independent and effective complaints mechanism for procurement, the ANAO estimated that it did not apply to at least 89 per cent of contracts reported over the three years to 30 June 2022 (representing 62 per cent of contracts reported by value),” he said.

“The approaches to making procurement complaint mechanisms and processes accessible to suppliers varied across the four entities subject to audit.”

Mr Hehir said DISR’s approach was comparatively better practice in terms of the information published on entity websites, as was the RBA’s in terms of the information provided in open tender documentation.

He said the information ACMA provided was limited to advising suppliers where to lodge a complaint, being an approach based on the Commonwealth Contracting Suite and observed across many other Australian Government entities.

He said Finance published insufficient information on its website, including in respect of public interest certificates under the GPJR Act.

“ACMA and DISR handled procurement complaints from suppliers appropriately,” the Auditor-General said.

“Finance’s handling of complaints about its own activities was largely appropriate, yet its handling of complaints to the Procurement Coordinator about the procurement processes of other Australian Government entities was poor,” he said.

“While the RBA had not received a complaint that fell within the scope of this audit, it had a suitable system in place to handle complaints.”

Mr Hehir made four recommendations to the Department of Finance aimed at making the GPJR Act and the Procurement Coordinator complaint mechanisms more accessible to suppliers.

The Auditor-General’s report can be accessed at this PS News link and an 89-page pdf version at this link.

The audit team was Tracey Bremner, Amy Willmott and Brian Boyd.

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