Assets management is not a significant part of the ARC’s strategic business. The ARC’s assets include office fit out, furniture, IT software and ‘portable and attractive’ equipment held at the ARC office. The ARC reviews its asset holdings annually to ensure cost effectiveness and whole-of-life asset utilisation. In 2015–16 the annual stocktake was conducted in February 2016.
The ARC’s approach to purchasing is consistent with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. Detailed policy and procedures relating to procurement are also set out in the ARC’s Accountable Authority Instructions (AAIs) and other specific policy and procedure guides (such as those for travel and use of Commonwealth credit cards), all of which are reviewed and updated periodically.
The Commonwealth Procurement Rules represent the Australian Government’s policy framework under which agencies govern and undertake procurement. The key rules are: value for money; encouraging competition; efficient, effective, economical and ethical procurement; accountability and transparency in procurement; procurement risk; and procurement method.
The ARC’s Finance Section has overall responsibility for procurement within the ARC. Finance Section staff provide information and training about procurement policies and procedures as required. The ARC publishes information on proposed procurements in the ARC’s procurement plan, available from the AusTender website: www.tenders.gov.au. This plan gives potential suppliers early notice of significant planned procurements for the coming year. All procurements over $10,000 are published on AusTender.
Policy on selection and engagement
The ARC’s policy on selecting and engaging consultants is set out in the ARC’s AAIs and in related procurement instructions and guidance material. The ARC engages consultants primarily where there is a need for independent research or assessment or where a specialist skill or expertise is required. Consultants are engaged through a merit selection or procurement process.
Consultancy services are distinguished from other contracts for services by the nature of the work performed, which typically involves the development of an intellectual output that assists with agency decision-making and reflects the independent views of the service provider. By contrast, other (non-consultancy) contracts for services are typically far more restrictive in the degree of latitude afforded to the contractor. Details of contracts for services are available from the AusTender website.
During 2015–16 the ARC entered into 148 new consultancy contracts involving total actual expenditure of $3,898,257. In addition, 435 ongoing consultancy contracts were active during the 2015–16 year, involving total actual expenditure of $3,587,070. The majority of the new consultancy contracts in 2015–16 were for services relating to membership of ARC committees.
Over the past three years the ARC’s expenditure on consultancy contracts was:
- $3,587,070 in 2015–16
- $2,985,430 in 2014–15
- $1,894,489 in 2013–14.
Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website: www.tenders.gov.au.
Australian National Audit Office access clauses
All contracts let for goods and services during the reporting period of $100,000 or more (inclusive of GST) provided for the Auditor-General to have access to the contractor’s premises.
The ARC CEO did not exempt any contracts from publication on the AusTender website during the reporting period.
Procurement initiatives to support small business
The ARC supports small business participation in the Commonwealth Government procurement market. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and small enterprise participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance website: www.finance.gov.au/procurement/statistics-on-commonwealth-purchasing-contracts/.
The ARC recognises the importance of ensuring that small business are paid on time. The results of the Survey of Australian Government Payments to Small Business are available on Treasury’s website. The ARC incorporates a number of procurement practices to support SMEs, including the use of standard contract templates with clear and simple language and electronic payment systems to facilitate on-time payment.