Federal agencies unite to hit reset on procurement option


Grant Hehir

Successive Aboriginal Affairs ministers have tried their best, but it was the Australian National Audit Office that has finally lit a fire under agencies not utilising the federal indigenous procurement option.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is making double sure it effectively promotes and monitors the use of procurement to support indigenous Australians, on the advice of auditor-general Grant Hehir (pictured).

Together with the Department of Finance, the central agency has agreed to work on a “strengthened promotion strategy” for the Indigenous Business Exemption (IBE), which allows public service agencies to bypass a competitive tender process in favour of majority indigenous-owned suppliers.

As The Mandarin reported last year, the IBE has rarely been invoked since its introduction in 2011. But momentum has been building in the intervening months thanks to the advocacy of indigenous business people and their supporters, and a relatively high profile example of its use by the Department of Defence.

The audit report comes hot on the heels of the July 1 commencement of the brand new Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP), which includes mandatory targets requiring each portfolio to ramp up its spending with majority indigenous-owned suppliers to 3% by 2019-20. The auditor-general recommends the internal promotional campaign remind public servants responsible for procurement of the potential for the exemption to contribute to broader aims of indigenous affairs policy.

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