NFP Update: Government Contracting in the Harper Report and Inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations

Matthew TurnourTN Rachel

Dr Matthew Turnour & Rachel Sloper (1 April 2015)

Harper Report into Competition Policy

Yesterday the Harper Report into Competition Policy released. For those in the NFP sector interested in government contracting the recommendation that the contracts focus on outcomes and the recommendation that the consumer laws be extended to apply to all levels of government are potentially very significant.

The first would mean a significant shift from the presently dominant way government structures contracts with the sector and the latter may expose government to risks of contracts that are too oppressive being illegal.

We set out below some of the key quotes with page references:

‘In the area of human services, the Panel recommends that: …

  • governments should retain a stewardship function, separating the interests of policy (including funding), regulation and service delivery;
  • governments commissioning human services should do so carefully, with a clear focus on outcomes; (page 8)

‘In fostering a diverse range of service models that meet the needs of individuals and the broader community, governments can benefit from working collaboratively with non-government human services providers to effectively ‘co-design’ the market, incorporating the services that users are demanding and how they might be best delivered.” (Page 225)

‘Tender documents have traditionally been written in a prescriptive fashion and with an overarching focus on value for money. Although risk management and value for money are both important considerations, too narrow a focus on these factors can constrain diversity, choice and innovation in government-commissioned provision of goods and services.

Governments can take steps to encourage diversity, choice and innovation in procurement arrangements. Tendering with a focus on outcomes, rather than outputs, and trials of less-prescriptive tender documents could encourage bidders to suggest new and innovative methods for achieving the governments’ desired result.

Reviews of procurement, commissioning, PPPs and privatisation policies and guidelines should be undertaken by all Australian governments, and commence within 12 months of accepting the recommendation.’ (Page 278)

Please contact our office if you require assistance in relation to contracting with governments.

Inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations

Yesterday the federal government announced an inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations. In our opinion any organisation registered on that Register should consider putting in a submission to the inquiry. The terms of reference are expansive. They focus not only on the administration and transparency of the Register but also on the effectiveness of the Register in ‘supporting communities to take practical action to improve the environment’. In addition to looking at the legal issues the inquiry is to ‘have particular regard to ‘… the activities undertaken by [environmental organisations]’.

Organisations on the Register are one of the few types of DGR-endorsed entities, along with overseas aid funds, developed country disaster relief funds, and organisations listed by name in the tax law, which do not have to pursue their purposes or have their beneficiaries located ‘in Australia’.

Other deductible entities might also be interested in the terms of reference so far as they relate to ‘Australian Taxation Office [powers] to investigate breaches …by listed organisations; and relevant governance arrangements in international jurisdictions, and exploring methods to adopt best practice in Australia.’ The terms of reference can be found here. This firm has considerable experience in assisting organisations with submissions to federal Parliamentary Inquiries.

Please contact us if preparing a submission is of interest to your organisation.

DISCLAIMER: This update contains general information only. The information is not all inclusive and should not be considered to be legal advice. You should always obtain legal advice for your specific circumstances before relying on general information.