The government agency responsible for technology procurement has declined to provide almost any detail on its procurement strategy and associated ballooning consultancy costs, as the national auditor begins an official investigation into its buying practices.
The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) last week batted away inquiries about a contract it awarded Big Four consultancy KPMG in 2020 for “procurement strategy support”, despite its value jumping more than five-fold over multiple extensions to $3.3 million and details being incorrectly reported on the AusTender website.
A spokesperson for the agency declined to answer questions on the procurement strategy, providing only vague details on the KPMG work, which was awarded under open tender through a panel structure.
“The scope of the engagement was to provide strategic planning consultation services, specifically business case advice. Deliverables included procurement strategy support and costing analysis to inform the business case,” a DTA spokesperson told InnovationAus.
The response provides next to no clarity on what the work related to, and the spokesperson declined to provide any more information on follow up, including whether a formal strategy had been developed over the nine-month contract or in the year since it ended.
The work may also relate to the assessment of other agencies’ technology procurements, given the DTA’s support role.
The DTA is responsible for developing, delivering, and monitoring whole-of-government strategies, policies and standards for digital and ICT investments, including ICT procurement.
Its procurement performance is being put under the microscope by the Australian National Audit Office.
The national audit office is looking into whether the federal government’s digital office has established a sound procurement framework, if it has conducted procurements effectively and if it has managed contracts effectively.
Submissions on these issues are being accepted until the end of March.
The DTA was previously in the audit office’s crosshairs in 2020, with the ANAO finding that the agency did not follow procurement rules when establishing its Digital Marketplace, and that the process behind it was “not robust”.
The agency continues to claim “sophisticated procurement approaches” among its core capabilities, and has a centralised procurement team.
But tender documents show the DTA also spends millions of dollars on “procurement specialists” each year, in addition to the KPMG strategy work.
Since March last year the DTA has signed 11 separate contracts for procurement officers, advisors, or specialists, with a total value of more than $3.1 million. All of these contracts finish by the end of the current year, are listed as being for individual personnel and average over $285,000 each.
In 2017, an ICT procurement taskforce found “deep dissatisfaction” of almost all parties involved in government procurement practices and processes at the time, and recommended sweeping changes, including a medium term strategy for building the Australian Public Service’s ICT procurement capability and culture.
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