ACS calls for government procurement reform

Published on the 14/04/2022 | Written by Heather Wright

ACS_Canberra_Procurement reform

Please to keep it local, inclusive and professional…

The Australian Computer Society has called on the government to up its game around professional standards, diversity and inclusion and sovereign capability, when it comes to IT procurement.

The call comes in the ACS’ submission for the Australian National Audit Office’s review of the Digital Transformation Agency’s Procurement of ICT-related Services, with the ACS noting better procurement practices could have ‘enormous flow-on effects’, ensuring that money and jobs remain in Australia.

The industry body says the government’s might as the employer in Australia and the largest customer of IT products and services by a considerable margin, means it can set the tone and direction for the Australian IT industry as a whole.

“Better procurement practices can have enormous flow-on effects”

“A key component of that direction comes from the guidance provided to government agencies by the Digital Transformation Agency.”
The document calls for greater focus on local contracts – long a sticking point for local ICT providers who are often passed over for international companies. None of the eight companies with whole-of-government arrangements are Australian.

“Recent world events have highlighted the need for greater sovereign capability,” the ACS says, saying the use of Australian suppliers – particularly with in-country teams – should be an important consideration in digital sourcing policy guidance for all government agencies.

Importantly, it’s included mention of local companies using off-shore capability, suggesting a ‘comprehensive’ review of current contracts to ‘examine sovereign risks and the proportion of contracts going to Australian suppliers’ should include evaluation of the use of in-country professionals.

Australian-domiciled companies may still use offshore teams, the ACS notes.

It wants to see greater focus on professional standards and certificates as part of the procurement process to improve supplier performance and assurance as well as provide a net benefit to the Australian economy.

Ethics, and flexibility in adjusting to a rapidly moving ICT sector, are also referenced.

“Digital transformation depends upon professionalism in terms of its growth and maturity to ensure a range of features, including the ongoing review and observation of change in scope and capability of digital procurement and related ICT services.”

It notes that codes with fixed benchmarks are of little help in the rapidly changing ICT market and there are ‘additional burdens’ in balancing benefits with avoiding potential harm.

“In cases where software has both great benefits, but also can be used for harm, it is important to recognise that in some cases the security of a software product is of equal if not greater importance than the software itself.

“It remains critical that DTA acknowledges the ongoing commitment to ensuring that procurement choices retain the same level of ethical consideration for emerging software as for hardware and wetware (people and services).”

It’s also calling on the DTA to include D&I as a component of its procurement processes, saying D&I is a must-have element of a sound and effective ICT procurement framework, policy and practice and a comprehensive and robust audit into the DTA’s ICT procurement should include D&I.

That includes looking at the DTA’s current D&I policy and practice and whether that policy is followed, along with whether it is sound and effective.
“Better procurement practices can have enormous flow-on effects,” the ACS says.

“It can ensure that money and jobs remain in Australia. It can contribute to a fairer and more diverse workforce. It can increase the skills of the local workforce and reduce sovereign risk. These are matters to which we believe the DTA, and ANAO in its oversight capacity, should be paying considerable attention.

The association has also made a call for all political parties and candidates to recognise the importance of the technology sector, as Australia heads into its 2022 Federal election.

It recently released a 2022 Election Platform proposing more than one billion dollars in programs to boost diversity in the sector, improve technology education, upskill existing workers and encourage businesses to invest in digital technologies and training, which it is hoping candidates will take on board as part of their platform.

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