Protecting the public purse with digital footprints

Technological solutions for routine activities at all tiers of government can help navigate the challenges that humans find confronting and make auditing simpler. Procurement is ripe for digital transformation, writes Rob Cook.

In a perfect world, two major objectives for procurement are to obtain best value for money and ensure that everything is above board. And when it comes to the public purse, the guidelines around procurement practice exist for a reason. Parameters such as the need to go to tender when the value is more than $100,000 are simply a safeguard for the public purse. They are designed to ensure transparency and value for money — and they also exist to minimise corruption.

Yet in an era of unprecedented technology advances, when the light on operations has never shone brighter, it remains all too common that the guidelines can still be avoided, either inadvertently or otherwise.

Recently covered in The Mandarin, an investigation from former auditor general Ian McPhee examined the application of procurement rules within three government bodies. Among other things, it found that:

  • In some cases, evidence such as supplier quotes, supplier correspondence and evaluation reports providing value for money justifications was lacking;
  • Proof that project expenditure was approved before deals were struck with suppliers was available for only 74% of procurements; and
  • Doing procurement by the book remains an “ongoing challenge” for many public servants.

It’s clear, then, that any approach to market remains prone to human error and other unpredictable variables. Or, put another way, despite the existence of procurement guidelines and safeguards, negative outcomes can still occur.

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