‘Areas for improvement’ in WA’s strategic advice procurement

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday June 11, 2019

A new audit of Western Australian state government entities found that procurement policies could be improved by defining “strategic consultancy advice”.

The Commissioner of Main Roads, Department of Training and Workforce Development, Department of Transport, Forest Products Commission, Housing Authority, Lotteries Commission, Public Transport Authority of Western Australia, and Western Australian Land Information Authority were assessed. 

The audit looked at whether they comply with reporting requirements and if their policies, procedures and guidelines for the engagement of consultants for strategic advice are suitable.

The entities generally abide by the Premier’s Circular 2016/02, but there is room for improvement, Auditor General Caroline Spencer said.

In-house skills assessments should be conducted for consultancy services below $50,000, and the definition of “strategic advice” needs to be clearer, according to the report.

The Circular was issued after the state government identified the need for centralised scrutiny when public sector entities engage consultants for strategic advice.

It requires entities to seek approval from the Department of the Premier and Cabinet for proposals with estimated value of $50,000 and above to establish contractual arrangements with external consultants.

The report recommended that the Circular be updated by 30 September 2019 to provide further guidance and consider points to entities as to what constitutes “strategic advice for Government to act on”.

It also suggested state government entities ensure that:

  • Policies and procedures are up to date and reference the requirements of the Premier’s Circular governing the contracting of consultants for strategic advice, where appropriate.
  • Policies require in-house skills assessment for consultancy projects to confirm staff within the entity do not possess the necessary skills before engaging a consultant.
  • Contracts for consultants for strategic advice services with a value of $50,000 and above are appropriately submitted to DPC for approval prior to the engagement of the consultant.

 Spencer said narrow scope audits like this “give an indication of the health of various financial management controls”.

“Importantly, the findings of these audits are likely representative of issues in other government entities that were not part of our sample,” she said.

“I encourage all entities, and not just those audited, to periodically assess themselves against these risks and controls on an ongoing basis.”

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