Northern Territory addressed contract criticism on procurement roadshow

Adam Leach is a freelance business journalist
1 August 2016

If there's an issue with your operation, get into it, get out of the office and get to grips with it.

That was the overriding sentiment of Jason Bingham's presentation at the CIPS Australasia Conference in Melbourne. As head of procurement for the Northern Territory Government, he had heard that local businesses were not happy with the way contracts were being distributed so decided to assess the relevance of the criticism.

“It started off with those classic bits of feedback saying, 'You don't give business to locally owned suppliers',” he explained to the audience, adding that criticism peaked last year, possibly due to the state of the domestic economy.

Keen to understand whether it was just general annoyance or the consequence of issues within his department, he encouraged staff to address the issue on the department's procurement roadshow across the territory.

The tour took in areas such as Alice Springs and Katherine, among many others. “The feedback was pretty much as described, they were not happy with how the money was being spent,” said Bingham.

From that a quick follow up in the form of a commissioned survey, which received quantitative and qualitative responses form 500 out of 4,000 responses, showed that there was ample scope for improvement.

Upon review of the submissions, a clearly defined and actionable plan was put together and submitted as a cabinet proposal, with support from both the chief executive and the relevant minister, designed to improve local content within the procurement process.

Among the recommendations put before the cabinet was the introduction of an element of mandatory local involvement, increasing the weighting of local content in contract awards and ensuring local content plans were communicated in tender responses and, crucially, carried through.

With the process from identification to submission carried out in just over two months, Bingham highlighted the importance of senior procurement professionals knowing their capability pool, while also stressing the need to communicate with stakeholders, both internal and external, on their level.

“Distil everything down and customise everything for your audience. If you don't do that, you're not going to bring anyone on your journey,” he said.

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