Audit office to probe Entrepreneurs’ Programme contracts

Denham Sadler
Senior Reporter

The national audit office will probe the federal government’s flagship industry program, with an inquiry launched into the $140 million in contracts dished out to the delivery partners of the Entrepreneurs’ Programme.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has commenced an audit into the procurement of delivery partners for the Entrepreneurs’ Programme, with submissions to open soon and a final report to be tabled in May next year.

The Entrepreneurs’ Programme was launched in the 2014-15 budget by the Abbott government, and kicked along in the National Innovation and Science Agenda in late 2015 by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Money, money, money

The scheme aims to support businesses to grow, innovate and commercialise, and includes four service delivery elements: Business Management, Innovation Connections, Incubator Support and Accelerating Commercialisation.

There was a significant revamping of the program early last year, with contracts worth $140 million handed out to seven delivery partners, working across various elements of the program across the country.

The delivery partners are private sector organisations contracted by the government to assist in implementing the scheme and working with local companies.

While last year was meant to see a refreshing of these delivery partners, five of the seven successful applications had already been involved with it, and most are large advisory firms.

Successful applicants to be delivery partners include Deloitte, which will be paid more than $30 million to help run the scheme in Queensland, and i4 Connect, a small commercialisation advisory firm which will be paid $30 million over three years to manage a national network of business advisories under the Accelerating Commercialisation strand.

After winning the contract, i4 Connect quickly kicked off a major hiring spree, with job advertisements for 24 positions around the country, while CSIRO also advertised for new roles after winning a separate contract under the program.

The $140 million in contracts issued under the Entrepreneurs’ Programme last year will now come under the scrutiny of the ANAO, which is looking into the procurement process by the Industry department and whether the Commonwealth is getting value for money from them.

“The objective of this audit is to examine whether the design and conduct of the procurement process for delivery partners for the Entrepreneurs’ Programme complied with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules, and whether the signed contracts are being appropriately managed,” the ANAO said.

The audit will be asking whether the procurement process demonstrably achieved value for money, and if the contracts are being appropriately managed to achieve the objectives.

The new delivery partners’ contracts came into effect from July last year and run until mid-2023, with an option to extend them for a further two years.

Other delivery partners include the Australian Industry Group, which will get $31 million for business advisory services in Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia, and the NSW Business Chamber, which will net $21 million to work in NSW and the ACT.

Business SA will also receive $8.5 million to help deliver the Entrepreneurs’ Programme in South Australia, the Darwin Innovation Hub will get $4.9 million for local services, and the CSIRO had its contract to work on the Innovation Connection strand renewed for $17 million.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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