Shaking up Commonwealth Procurement?

Procurement

Commonwealth Procurement Rules may be set for a revamp after the Joint Select Committee on Government Procurement handed down its findings yesterday.

The Joint Select Committee on Government Procurement delivered its final report yesterday, titled Buying into our Future, which provides 16 recommendations across a wide range of issues relevant to the recently updated Commonwealth Procurement Rules.

Three of the recommendations relate directly to social, environmental and economic sustainability.

Social sustainability: The committee recommends that the “Attorney-General’s Department oversee the introduction and application of a procurement-connected policy requiring Commonwealth agencies to evaluate suppliers’ compliance with human rights regulation.” This may align with the outcomes of another inquiry regarding the establishment of a Modern Slavery Act in Australia (similar to that introduced in the UK in 2015).

Environmental sustainability: The committee recommends that the “Department of the Environment oversee the introduction and application of a procurement-connected policy requiring Commonwealth agencies to evaluate the whole-of-life environmental sustainability of goods and services to be procured.”  Whole-of-life cost requirements in procurement regulations are not new, but the specific mention of ‘environmental sustainability’ over the whole-of-life takes the emphasis on sustainability to a new level.

Economic sustainability: The final key recommendation for sustainability regards improving the definition of ‘economic benefit’ and ensuring that local content and participation can be maximised.

While the committee has not been given any power in its terms of reference to progress these issues beyond this final report, it sends a strong message that sustainability requirements in Commonwealth procurement should be clearly defined, explicit and more stringent.

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