An audit of government processes to receive and investigate procurement complaints found it is “limiting the ability of suppliers to make complaints and seek remedies”, according to the Australian National Audit Office.
The audit examined the procurement complaints handling of the finance, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the Department of Industry, Science and Resources (DISR) and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).
The audit found that while the ACMA, DISR and RBA had handled procurement complaints in a “largely appropriate manner”, it said “this was not the case for complaints to the procurement coordinator within the Department of Finance”.
It said the finance department had failed to publish sufficient information on its website about its procurement complaints procedures and did not adequately encourage complaints from suppliers.
Australia’s Government Procurement (Judicial Review) Act 2018 is designed to provide suppliers with an independent procurement complaint mechanism. However, the audit found this did not did not apply to at least 89% of contracts reported over the three years to 30 June 2022.
Of the 28 open government tenders examined, only 32% told suppliers where they could make a complaint, as well as instructing how to conduct one.
The report said: “Finance’s approach to driving improvement in the publication of complaints handling information by other entities has had limited effect, and Finance did not demonstrate better practice on its own website”.
The report ordered the Department of Finance to:
- review how the procurement coordinator complaint mechanism is promoted and operated;
- Improve its accessibility to suppliers with concerns regarding Australian government procurement policy; and
- Improve customer service and the speed at which it handles complaints.
The report comes as the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit is investigating Commonwealth procurement practices.