Fast tracking, flexibility and being prepared for a government led recovery.
Timely tender and bid applications are the key to getting your business involved in government projects aimed at Australia’s recovery.
Projects are being launched now to support Australia through the pandemic months, and bigger infrastructure projects are planned to float the nation through the inevitably rugged economic rapids.
What can your business, big or small, do to be a part of the recovery?
Tendering during the immediate crisis
In April 2020 the NSW government announced that the COVID-19 pandemic qualifies as an ‘emergency’ for the purposes of the Public Works Procurement Act 1912 (NSW).
Government agencies that conduct procurement are given guidance on how to act under clause 4 of the Public Works and Procurement Regulation 2019 [Clause 4 PWP]. The clause allows government agency heads to authorise procurements with exemptions from the usual procurement requirements, including certain provisions and prequalification schemes.
The intent is to provide faster and more flexible procurement processes in response to a pandemic that has serious, disruptive and rapidly shifting consequences. For example, certain essential developments, such as COVID-19 clinics, can be carried out without any form of planning approval.
Tips for reviewing contracts and preparing tenders
For businesses that wish to tender for government work, or those who are currently working with government should consider these tips:
- If you are preparing for a tender, check in now and confirm whether key dates have changed since bids might be fast-tracked or suspended as the government responds to circumstances.
- Due to procurement opportunities being fast-tracked under the emergency regulations, it is more important than ever to have prepared responses you can readily put forward. To understand what government departments look for and what information your business can prepare, consult this guide to tendering in Australia.
- Review existing contracts to understand the implications for your business, such as:
‘force majeure’ legal clauses regarding unforseen events that render performance of a contract impossible, and which include reference to a pandemic or epidemic
legally ‘frustrating events’ that make the contract incapable of being performed under current circumstances, such as under new international travel plans
- Moving forward, check with a lawyer that your contracts have clear wording to cover pandemic-related impacts.
- Be aware that the emergency procurement rules will end at some point, so your contract and business plans should allow for the emergency context to change.
Current crisis opportunities
Being flexible, quick acting and prepared will put your business in a good position.
For example, the NSW government is currently calling for manufacturers who can meet local demand to register with the NSW ‘COVID-19 Emergency Supplies Registration portal SCM8821’
The NSW portal asks suppliers who “have the capacity to provide critical supplies, raw materials or manufacturing capability to produce critical supplies during the COVID-19 crisis.”
More than 1800 NSW firms have registered with the portal, such as regional producer Junee Licorice and Chocolate, which “acted quickly to begin producing supplies of hand sanitiser needed by frontline emergency and medical workers to help prevent the virus spreading”.
The portal is a solutions-focused approach to procurement that does not guarantee a supply contract but establishes a supplier list “to connect NSW government agencies and eligible buyers with suppliers capable of providing critical supplies within a range of categories.”
A longer-term government-led recovery
In Australia there is strong support for a government-led recovery. According to an Australia Institute poll held in April 2020, two in three Australians believe the government should take the lead regarding economic recovery while just one in 10 say that role should be taken by big business.
Australia and the UK were most likely to say that “the government should take the lead in sustaining the economy” (both 64%).
In contrast in the USA less than half thought the government should take the lead in the months ahead. Misgivings about ‘big government’ are more entrenched in the USA. [The country has even been slow to utilise the US ‘Defense Production Act’, which gives the president authority to command the production of private industry, for the production of ventilators and masks.]
Australian expectations may have been influenced by important government infrastructure projects such as the successful Snowy Mountains Scheme that invigorated post-war Australia.
New infrastructure programs
Already there is public and government support for a range of large infrastructure projects.
The Victorian state government has green-lit four large-scale projects. Western Australia has started out strongly with Infrastructure Australia adding two major rail infrastructure projects to the infrastructure Priority List. [Utopia’s fabled Fast Intercity Train concept may not be that far-fetched.]
The Australian Government is providing funding to fast track national water infrastructure construction in partnership with the state and territory governments. In NSW large infrastructure programs look set to include:
- Dam projects, such as the new Dungowan Dam, the Wyangala Dam Raising upgrade and investigations for a third dam on the Mole River in the North.
- Programs fast-tracked under the Planning System Acceleration Program – six schools, a university campus development and new housing, including social housing.
To keep tabs on planned procurement of interest go to the Aus Tender website and add them to your watch list. AusTender provides centralised publication of government business opportunities, annual procurement plans and contracts awarded.
Putting plans in place now can be assisted by reading Jo Ryan’s book How To Win Tenders an Easy to Read Guide for Small Business. Now available on Amazon.
If you would like to speak with us about getting ready to tender, get in touch.