Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 14 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 November 2005) . . Page.. 4518 ..
MR QUINLAN: We are looking now at centralising procurement and centralising a lot of the IT delivery as well. I guess that you could say that maybe part of the theory of the pulsating universe is organisations, on the one hand, centralised and, on the other, decentralised.
Mrs Burke: It sounds a bit cabbalistic to me.
MR QUINLAN: You should have stayed at school a bit. We have had an expenditure review committee report. We have looked at some of these areas and the ERC report indicates to us that we can, with fewer resources, do the same job. As the audit report would indicate, the procurement area itself, the centralised Procurement Solutions, seems to be doing a good job.
A couple of times, not many, I have had visitation from people—I am sure that the MBA would be happy to be quoted—who have said to me, “Can you get all of the work to go through your guys because when we deal with them we know exactly where we are going?” Inevitably when you have a decentralised system, even if there is a hard and fast set of rules, you will still get interpretation and you will still get diversion in the way things are done. Of course, business wants everything to be simple. They like us to keep it very simple for them, otherwise they complain—red tape, task forces and those sorts of things. You have to keep it fairly simple for business and we intend to do so.
We have, through the expenditure review committee, estimated a reduction in the amount of resources that will be applied to procurement once the centralisation process is completed. That, like any other process, is going to take management as well. You do not just change it and walk away from it. It is going to take management to ensure that we provide the level of service and that all of a sudden we do not get, as well as business maybe having a bit of a complaint about procurement, all the other agencies saying, “We never get service. It used to be much better when we had it.”
I think that in the overall context, just going through the ERC figures, which have generally been accepted by those that are involved, that it does offer economies to government. That does not change the need to abide by processes. It does not change the need to ensure that the competitive process continues and that we do not get ritualistic in our purchases. But occasionally, and this is one of the things that I want to ask about before I bring back the response to the audit report, you will get situations where the rules and regulations become a nonsense, where you get to the point that there is only one supplier or the line that you are buying is such a standard line that going through “the process” does devolve somewhat to a nonsense.
I will be pushing in the future for the management of our procurement to be sensible so that we get the best out of it. Business is flexible and would want to remain flexible, but the public sector has always got that two-edged sword. You have to do everything exactly by the book or someone will complain, but if you do it exactly by the book and it takes so long someone else will complain because it takes so long to go though the process. I would like to think that we could strike a balance and be sensible and still get the best value for the town, but that is a case of ongoing management.