The Digital Transformation Agency is conducting a review of all “significant” past procurements in the wake of a damning audit that uncovered widespread failings with its buying practices.
The “retrospective review, by exception” will cover procurements with a similar risk profile to those in the recent external audit, such as those conducted using limited tender, as well as procurements of concern identified by staff.
The examination is detailed in the agency’s submission to the parliamentary inquiry currently examining Canberra’s procurement culture through the lens of five recent audits.
The inquiry began shortly after the DTA was slammed by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) for undertaking nine ICT-related procurements that were “ineffective” and “fell short of ethical requirements”.
In some instances, the government’s digital advisor bypassed the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and sourced directly from suppliers, such as in the case of the multi-million dollar myGov upgrade contract.
In response to the ANAO’s damning findings, the DTA has “implemented a centralised process of procurement control”, whereby its head of corporate assesses all procurements before they go to market.
The “control” is used to mitigate any procurement risks, capture any conflicts of interest and confirm budget availability. Since September, the DTA has also required that a procurement checklist is completed for each procurement.
“This control is driving full adherence to the DTA’s procurement framework through centralised evaluation and authorisation of procurements prior to their release to the market,” the DTA said in the submission.
The retrospective review now underway covers all “significant” procurements conducted prior to the introduction of the control in June and intends to identify “potentials areas of deficiency in procurements not sampled by the ANAO” so they don’t reoccur.
A crowdsourcing tactic is being used for the review, with staff able to “raise procurements from within the previous 18 months that they feel may benefit from a retrospective assessment that applies new centralised controls”.
The DTA will also analyse “historic procurements with similar risk characteristics” to those identified by the ANAO, including “high value procurements, limited tender issues and high levels of contract variation”.
A sample of the procurements identified will then be reviewed twice a year to “identity any potential areas of non-compliance, ineffective contract management, or areas of increased risk based on scope changes or cost increases”.
The DTA is also promising stricter repercussions for those presiding over procurements where problems have been identified, having already mandated fraud awareness and Commonwealth resource management training for staff with financial delegation.
“If any of these are identified, responsible delegates will be formally issued with a notice of non-compliance. The notice will outline the findings and what is required to be corrected,” the DTA said.
“Repeat instances of non-compliance will result in a review of an individual’s ability to hold or exercise financial delegation and the ability to undertake procurements will be ceased until such time as appropriate corrective actions or training have been satisfactorily completed.”
The DTA also said it had recently proposed and gained agreement from Canberra-based tech firm Delv to recoup the $380,000 it overpaid for work on the now-decommissioned COVIDSafe contact tracing app.
The overpayment was only noticed by the DTA when identified by the ANAO as part of its inquiry.
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