Cleaning Up On Cleaning Contracts

Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory, is home to the nations houses of parliament and a large swathe of public sector. Transparency of public procurement has become an issue in the state in recent years. In fact, last March the ACT public sector Integrity Commissioner Michael Adams, told a Legislative Assembly committee that procurement issues are likely to be ‘endemic’ in the state.

The latest Auditor-General report has highlighted an arrangement between a government directorate and a cleaning company that lacked transparency or due process. According to the Auditor- General Michael Harris, over the course of a decade, payments totalling $8 million were passed from the Justice and Community Safety Directorate (JACS) to an unnamed cleaning company for cleaning services for Emergency Service Agency (ESA) facilities.

Since the early 2000s, the Service Provider supplied a range of cleaning and other services for the ACT ESA’s facilities, however, no payment records were found before 2008. The services were provided in many cases, without any contract or any evidence of an open and competitive tender process. This meant there was no scrutiny from the directorate over whether they represented value for money. While four contracts were signed between 2009 and 2018, the Audit Office could not find evidence that they were open and competitive, complying with ACT law.

JACS reports that in November 2021, the majority of the services provided by the Service Provider were replaced by an integrated facilities management services contract with another supplier. Therefore, as the arrangements described in report are  now largely historical, Mr Harris provided an information report only to the ACT Legislative Assembly as his office had decided not to undertake a performance audit. JACS told the Audit Office it had improved its procurement processes since then.The full auditor general report of the cleaning contract review can be found here.

It’s certainly busy in the ACT at the moment, with the Canberra Institute of Technology and the and multi-million-dollar consulting contracts awarded to Patrick Hollingworth currently before the Integrity Commission.

The ACT Legislative Assembly made recommendations to the government for how it could improve its procurement processes, including adding value-for-money assessments into every decision made.

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