The public sector union has slammed government secrecy in relation to the redevelopment of the myGov platform, saying the public has the right to know who is completing this work, and there was no valid reason for not disclosing it.
The federal government has been working on a new version of myGov since early last year. The new service will initially run alongside the existing platform before eventually replacing it and is meant to offer a user experience more in-line with private sector services such as Facebook or Netflix.
Much of the work has been outsourced, with Deloitte picking up the bulk of the contracts. Deloitte has so far been paid more than $30 million since early last year for work on the new myGov, which is still in a beta phase.
Late last year Services Australia, which has taken over contracting responsibilities from the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), established a Systems Integrator Panel for companies that would be contracted to work on the final stage of the new myGov – or myGovDXP as it has been known.
But Services Australia is yet to disclose publicly which companies are on the panel. Earlier this year Deloitte was awarded a $4.5 million contract through this panel, making the Big Four firm the first to be revealed.
But Services Australia has refused to disclose the other companies on the panel, saying it would do so “once all aspects of the procurement process are complete”.
Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) assistant national secretary Michael Tull said there was no excuse for the government not saying what companies had been selected to work on the myGov project.
“The public has the right to know who the government is contracting to do what work and at what price. We all suspect that ‘commercial in confidence’ is used to hide many sins. But refusing to even reveal who has been chosen for a panel is a whole new level of concern,” Mr Tull told InnovationAus.
“It is hard to see a valid reason for keeping this secret. The government’s justification – that the procurement process is not yet complete – doesn’t stack up and isn’t based on any provision of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules that I can see.
“And given the type of procurement being done here – a panel of providers to work on systems integration – there’s a pretty good argument that potential tenderers would benefit from knowing who else is on the panel.”
In February Services Australia went to the market for contractors to “provide suitable software capabilities to enable any of the prescribed bundles of the core customer experience capabilities”, including content management, experience delivery and experience analytics.
The entire myGov rebuild project is now shrouded in secrecy, with the government declining to disclose any further information on the systems integrator panel, the timeline for the project, or the roles of Services Australia and the DTA.
InnovationAus asked Services Australia when it expects to finalise the contracts under the panel and to disclose its members, for an outline of the project timeline and its various stages, and what roles Services Australia and the DTA would play in the project.
In response, a Services Australia spokesperson said to refer to previous answers, which did not elaborate on any of these questions.
A spokesperson for the DTA also pointed to “recent response” on the project, despite not providing an answer to InnovationAus on the matter for several months.
The increasing use of similar panel-type arrangements for procurement is troubling, Mr Tull said.
“CPSU has long held concerns about transparency and competition in government procurement, and in particular about the use of panels,” he said.
“In our experience, panels make it harder to keep track of who has won what, while on the competition front the ANAO found in 2018 that panel use was increasing, and that most panels had a small proportion of suppliers being awarded the majority of contract value.
“A lack of transparency and declining competition among tenders is not a recipe for the best use of taxpayer dollars.”