Webinar 2: State and Federal Government Procurement

This is the second webinar in a series supporting the Social Procurement Capability Program. In the second webinar we focused on State and Federal Government procurement, including:

  • explore what is on the horizon for government social procurement
  • provide an overview of where to find government procurement opportunities and the types of social enterprises suited to government procurement
  • share what you can expect to see in government tenders
  • discuss some of the common challenges in winning government contracts and sharing a few tips to overcome these.

In the webinar we are joined by three guest panellists:

  • Elisabeth Lette, Director for QLD and NT at ArcBlue, a leading consulting, analytics & training firm specialising in procurement & supply chain, with a mission to deliver positive change through procurement.
  • Brigid Fleming, Senior Business Manager at IPA leading South East QLD and NSW. IPA is a national recruitment firm and also a certified social enterprise, with a mission is to raise awareness, educate and enhance social impact possibilities through the power of social procurement.
  • Rob Law, Social Procurement Advisor for the Queensland Government. Rob has a wealth of knowledge and experience, including establishing enterprise hubs and mentoring social enterprises. In his current role, Rob supports the QLD Government on their social procurement activities, while also working with SE’s to build the sector’s capacity.

Key advice

What is the Queensland Government looking to achieve through their social procurement policy?

“Government is not just interested in advancing our economic objectives but also our environmental and social objectives because we see the value in and how social procurement can build a more inclusive and cohesive economy”.

Rob Law, Social Procurement Advisor for the Queensland Government

What is on the horizon for government social procurement?

  • Governments across all states and the Commonwealth are increasingly looking to get greater value from their from their budgets, from their spend. Social procurement provides a really attractive lever for governments to achieve greater value.
  • The Commonwealth is establishing a future made in Australia office which will have a really strong focus on social inclusion.
  • The Commonwealth has also recently just updated its Commonwealth procurement rules to say price isn't the only factor when it considers known value for money and what it is purchasing. So increasingly this expectation being driven across all layers of government.
  • Larger organisations also have requirements through government contracts to include social enterprises within their supply chain. So the opportunities for social enterprises to supply to government aren’t just directly with government departments and agencies, this can be via the supply chain.

Elisabeth Lette, Director for QLD and NT at ArcBlue

What is the Commonwealth Government currently doing in social procurement?

  • The Federal Government doesn't currently have a specific social procurement policy for social enterprises or a Commonwealth social enterprise strategy. Social Enterprise Australia, the peak body for social enterprise in Australia, is advocating to the Commonwealth Government on the development of a national strategy and policies to improve the operating environment for social enterprises at that Commonwealth level. 
  • The Commonwealth has a number of policies that might benefit some social enterprises: 
  • The Commonwealth Procurement rules do set a target of at least 20% of government contracts by value going to small and medium enterprises and SMEs.
  • An Indigenous procurement policy with annual targets for the volume and value of contracts to be awarded to Indigenous enterprises and each portfolio in particular.
  • The Sustainable Procurement Guide, which encourages Federal Government to consider sustainability factors in their purchasing decisions.
  • The Commonwealth procurement rules ensure public resources are used to achieve ‘value for money’, however price is not the only factor when assessing value for money in those rules, so they do require officials to consider a range of other relevant financial and non-financial costs and benefits. For example, broader economic and social benefits that are realized through environmental sustainability and economic benefits realized through the employment of more diversity and competition in our supply base and workforces.

What has the Queensland Government been doing in social procurement?

Queensland Government is continuing to invest in and embed social procurement in everything they do.

There are have been a number of important milestones over the past 4 years:

  • In 2018 the Queensland Procurement Policy was updated to include a commitment to increased spend with genuine quality social enterprises.
  • In 2019, Queensland Government introduced their first social enterprise strategy with seven key actions. This lead to significant grants going to the sector, significant funding in the market development and social procurement space and trying to really help build the capability of social enterprises because we recognise that the value they the value they bring.
  • In 2020 a portal was introduced so every government employee, including employees of the government owned corporations and statutory bodies, regardless of rank level, can access the portal and more readily find social enterprises to do business with.
  • In 2021 Government captured progress in an impact report which is an annual report to show how the dollars spent translate to number of jobs supported, dollars donated to charity, and tonnes of waste diverted from landfill.

Rob Law, Social Procurement Advisor for the Queensland Government

Where can you find government procurement opportunities?

  • AusTender website to find new tenders and register for alerts for Commonwealth Government procurement opportunities
  • Q Tenders website to find new tenders and register for alerts for Queensland Government procurement opportunities
  • The Queensland Government Contracts directory to look at what contacts have been awarded along with consider organisations you may be able to partner with who already have government contracts
  • Look out for Government panel arrangements which are usually open every 3 years for new panellists to express their interest.
  • Q Build to register for building and construction contracts for Queensland Government.

“I think that there is a common misconception that once you're on a panel and the business comes to you or you you've done your job and you can just sit there and wait for the phone to ring, it doesn't it doesn't ring ever. Panels are great, but there are only great if you make the most of them so heavy business development introductions, networking events, which I was going to mention, going to the Buy Queensland roadshows, the procurement roadshows that they have, and any single newsletter that's online that you can subscribe to get information. For us as a recruitment agency, there's obviously a Queensland Government jobs board and that there are jobs that they're doing themselves, but there's always contact details of people there and it's about calling and asking the question”.

Brigid Fleming, Senior Business Manager at IPA

What are some of the common sections in government tenders?

  • Conditions of offer or conditions of contract which outlines the terms and conditions.
  • Statement of requirements tells you what services or products are required, the expected timeframes and generally any pricing and performance requirements.
  • Evaluation criteria outlines the specific criteria used to assess responses.
  • Quality standards and accreditations required to deliver the contract.
  • Capability requirements which are the skills and the experience required to deliver the contract.
  • Budget for the contract.

What are some ways social enterprises can improve their chances of winning government contracts?

  • Know who you are and what services you are selling. Your service and your capability will win you the business. Really focus on ‘who am I’, ‘who are we as an organization’, ‘what are the services or the products or things that we provide’. This needs to be the number one part of your interaction with government, the impact you deliver comes second.
  • Buyers have to know that they can count on you, that they can buy something from you, they can procure a product or service, whatever it is from you, and that they can rely on you.
  • Work collaboratively with other social enterprises to work with government through contracts or sub-contracting arrangements.

Brigid Fleming, Senior Business Manager at IPA

What are some ways to stand out in your marketing and tender proposals?

“Don't be afraid to ask questions. So if you see an RFT come out and you think, oh, I think I could play a role here, but something doesn't quite make sense. Most tenders will have a phone number or a contact time frame that's open, open for questions”.

“And the other thing that I think is really important in responding to tenders for social enterprises is building what we call a set of case studies or testimonials to demonstrate the value that they can deliver and also to demonstrate some wins in either responding directly to government or partnering with other organisations or through the supply chain”.

Elisabeth Lette, Director for QLD and NT at ArcBlue

“I will add something on the case studies, talk them up, not talk them down. And as a recruiter, I have interviewed, I don't know how many people in my career and people are terrible at talking themselves up in an interview… And now I'm not saying over-inflate and I'm not saying say things that aren't true, but sometimes we forget about how important something is or how big or valuable something is because it's just in our everyday. So stop and look at your case studies and pull them apart and really talk them up because that's something that will get their attention.

“… really focus on your capability. They will want to know your capability. And so make sure that you can really clearly articulate your capability and how that will work with government, how that kind of interacts with them”.

Brigid Fleming, Senior Business Manager at IPA