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Contract risk is a multi-billion dollar problem for Australia’s local government

A former senior public servant’s technology solution helps curb cost blowouts and track lost visibility on project and contract overspend.

Some of Queensland’s most remote and regional local government bodies are leading the way in reducing contract blowout by being among the first to use a new platform developed by former senior public servant Megan Avard, who has experienced these problems firsthand.

Avard is the founder and CEO of SurePact, an enterprise SaaS (software as a solution) designed to help governments and corporations identify key project and contract risks at the beginning of a delivery so they can be mitigated against and budgeted for.

The company, which will officially celebrate its first year on November 26 in Brisbane, has already been named as this year’s Lendlease B2B Startup of the Year and is the only early stage startup to receive funding from the QLD Ignite Ideas Grant Fund two years in a row.

After 25 years working in infrastructure project and contract management roles – 11 years in local government and 14 years in state government and the private sector – Avard knew there had to be a better way to track and assess projects and contracts, while sustaining healthy compliance processes.

A clear gap in the market

“The software we have developed allows risk identification at every stage of a delivery but, more importantly, before you tender you can mitigate against risks and potentially avoid budget blowouts.”

“I had spent years witnessing millions of taxpayer dollars being squandered through the systemic failure of poorly managed infrastructure contracts,” Avard said. “I knew there was a clear gap in the market so I resigned my day job, in council, in August 2017 and started a software company the following week to build the solution.”

Megan Avard

With cost blowouts and lost visibility on project and contract overspend rife across government and corporate sectors, Avard says there is incredible demand for her technology solution.

“The software we have developed allows risk identification at every stage of a delivery but, more importantly, before you tender you can mitigate against risks and potentially avoid budget blowouts,” she explained.

“Our software includes procurement processes which support visibility, transparency and accountability in contract delivery, ultimately saving organisations millions of dollars.”

Within the company’s first year, Avard has already partnered with 10 per cent of Queensland’s local government, many of whom are in remote parts of the state.

The Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council was one of the first councils to partner with SurePact.

Sarah Wrigglesworth, Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council Director of Works and Facilities, oversees a team of 100, with 90 per cent of the council project expenditure sitting under her portfolio.

In charge of all key infrastructure projects across Palm Island from water treatment plants and building new jetties to new commercial buildings, Wrigglesworth said SurePact gives her better oversight over all projects and funding, while helping to identify potential risks when it comes to their workforce and suppliers.

“Palm Island is not funded by ratepayers like typical regional councils, we are funded by grants and various government bodies,” Wrigglesworth said. “Furthermore, council is the biggest employer on the island and we continue to try and employ as many people as possible to deliver our works.”

Data-led decisions

“Through the reports I can pull from SurePact I can identify and highlight key risk analysis, which will help us identify the work we can undertake through our workforce on the island and what we need to outsource due to the required skillset and experience. This allows councillors to be able to make data-led decisions that benefit the whole community and the funding revenues.”

“At the push of a button, I can view live data and pull a report from across all departments and sub departments to see exactly where projects and contracts are at and where the funding is situated for key projects.”

“This level of transparency will help us curb overspend because we will have visual at all times on milestones of how the projects and contracts are tracking, and be ahead of any potential challenges and mitigate issues before they become potential problems.”

““At the push of a button, I can view live data and pull a report from across all departments and sub departments to see exactly where projects and contracts are at.”

“For us, it also means we can make sure we are spending our funding better and be ahead of projects and contracts rather than being reactive.”

Avard said, by using SurePact, project and contract managers can identify the risks and outline mitigation strategies in place in less than 30 or 40 minutes.

“A lack of resources, time and long-term strategic thinking have long been the undoing of companies and time poor on the ground managers who are unable to track and mitigate against cost blow outs,” she said.

“Our solution reduces the risk of unexpected cost and time blowouts by tracking compounding risks throughout the delivery stages.”

Wrigglesworth will be joining keynote speaker and board member of the World Trade Symposium, Australian businesswoman and 20-year tech sector veteran, Leanne Kemp at the official launch of SurePact on November 26 in Brisbane.

“I am confident this will be well accepted by government and private enterprise as a real solution to curb overspend and stopping the typical project and contract blowouts,” Avard said.

Author Bio

Sarah Morgan

Sarah Morgan is a freelance writer.