7. Accountability and Transparency in Procurement
7.1 The Australian Government is committed to ensuring accountability and transparency in its procurement activities. Accountability means that officials are responsible for the actions and decisions that they take in relation to procurement and for the resulting outcomes. Transparency involves relevant entities taking steps to enable appropriate scrutiny of their procurement activity. The fundamental elements of accountability and transparency in procurement are outlined in this section.
7.2 Officials must maintain for each procurement a level of documentation commensurate with the scale, scope and risk of the procurement. Documentation should provide accurate and concise information on:
- the requirement for the procurement;
- the process that was followed;
- how value for money was considered and achieved;
- relevant approvals; and
- relevant decisions and the basis of those decisions.
7.3 Relevant entities must have access to evidence of agreements with suppliers, in the form of one or a combination of the following documents: a written contract, a purchase order, an invoice or a receipt.
7.4 Documentation must be retained in accordance with the Archives Act 1983.
7.5 AusTender5, the Australian Government’s procurement information system, is a centralised web-based facility that publishes a range of information, including relevant entities’ planned procurements, open tenders and contracts awarded. It also supports secure electronic tendering to deliver integrity and efficiency for relevant entities and potential suppliers.
7.6 AusTender is the system used to enable relevant entities to meet their publishing obligations under the CPRs. It also enables relevant entities to monitor and review their AusTender-based procurements, including approaches to market, publication of contracts and multi-use lists, and amendments to contracts and multi-use lists.
7.7 In order to draw the market’s early attention to potential procurement opportunities, each relevant entity must maintain on AusTender a current procurement plan containing a short strategic procurement outlook.
7.8 The annual procurement plan should include the subject matter of any significant planned procurement and the estimated publication date of the approach to market. Relevant entities should update their plans regularly throughout the year.
7.9 Relevant entities must use AusTender to publish open tenders and, to the extent practicable, to make relevant request documentation available. Relevant entities may use AusTender to publish prequalified tender or limited tender approaches to market and make relevant request documentation available.
7.10 Relevant entities should include relevant evaluation criteria in request documentation to enable the proper identification, assessment and comparison of submissions on a fair, common and appropriately transparent basis.
7.11 In any additional notification through other avenues, such as printed media, the details selected for inclusion in the notification must be the same as those published on AusTender.
7.12 When a relevant entity provides request documentation or any other document, already published on AusTender in any other form (for example, a printed version) that documentation must be the same as that published on AusTender.
7.13 A notice of a multi-use list must be published on AusTender. When a multi-use list will be updated at any time, the notice must identify that applications will be accepted during the entire period of the multi-use list’s operation. Alternatively, when a multi-use list will be updated only at specific times and according to set deadlines for application, the notice must invite applications at least once every 12 months.
7.14 Officials must, on request, promptly provide, to eligible potential suppliers, documentation that includes all information necessary to permit the potential supplier to prepare and lodge submissions.
7.15 Following the rejection of a submission or the award of a contract, officials must promptly inform affected tenderers of the decision. Debriefings must be made available, on request, to unsuccessful tenderers outlining the reasons the submission was unsuccessful. Debriefings must also be made available, on request, to the successful supplier(s).
7.16 Relevant entities must report contracts and amendments on AusTender within 42 days of entering into (or amending) a contract if they are valued at or above the reporting threshold.
7.17 The reporting thresholds (including GST) are:
- $10,000 for non-corporate Commonwealth entities; and
- for prescribed corporate Commonwealth entities,
- $400,000 for procurements other than procurement of construction services, or
- $7.5 million for procurement of construction services.
7.18 Regardless of value, standing offers must be reported on AusTender within 42 days of the relevant entity entering into or amending such arrangements. Relevant details in the standing offer notice, such as supplier details and the names of other relevant entities participating in the arrangement, must be reported and kept current.
7.19 Relevant entities must make available on request, the names of any subcontractor(s) engaged by a contractor in respect of a contract.
- Relevant entities must require contractors to agree to the public disclosure of the names of any subcontractors engaged to perform services in relation to a contract.
- Contractors must be required to inform relevant subcontractors that the subcontractor’s participation in fulfilling a contract may be publicly disclosed.
7.20 When conducting a procurement and awarding a contract, relevant entities should take appropriate steps to protect the Commonwealth’s confidential information. This includes observing legal obligations, such as those under the Privacy Act 1988, and statutory secrecy provisions.
7.21 Submissions must be treated as confidential before and after the award of a contract. Once a contract has been awarded the terms of the contract, including parts of the contract drawn from the supplier’s submission, are not confidential unless the relevant entity has determined and identified in the contract that specific information is to be kept confidential in accordance with the ‘confidentiality test’ set out in the guidance on Confidentiality Throughout the Procurement Cycle at http://www.finance.gov.au/procurement.
7.22 The need to maintain the confidentiality of information should always be balanced against the public accountability and transparency requirements of the Australian Government. It is therefore important for officials to plan for, and facilitate, appropriate disclosure of procurement information. In particular, officials should:
- include provisions in request documentation and contracts that alert potential suppliers to the public accountability requirements of the Australian Government, including disclosure to the Parliament and its committees;
- when relevant, include a provision in contracts to enable the Australian National Audit Office to access contractors’ records and premises to carry out appropriate audits; and
- consider, on a case-by-case basis, any request by a supplier for material to be treated confidentially after the award of a contract, and enter into commitments to maintain confidentiality only when such commitments are appropriate.
7.23 When confidential information is required to be disclosed, for example following a request from a parliamentary committee, reasonable notice in writing must be given to the party from whom the information originated.
7.24 Other reporting and disclosure obligations apply to officials undertaking procurement, including:
- disclosure of procurement information for relevant entity annual reporting purposes;
- disclosure of non-compliance with the CPRs through the Commonwealth’s compliance reporting process;
- disclosure to the Parliament and its committees, as appropriate, in line with the Government Guidelines for Official Witnesses before Parliamentary Committees and Related Matters;
- disclosure of information consistent with the Freedom of Information Act 1982; and
- disclosure of discoverable information that is relevant to a case before a court.
5 AusTender is available at www.tenders.gov.au
Last updated: 08 March 2017