Part of a government tender evaluation committee? Want to know your obligations?

A tender evaluation committee is responsible for ensuring that a government procurement process is transparent and that procurement related actions are documented, defensible and validated in accordance with probity obligations. Among other things, your job is to protect the Government of the day from allegations of impropriety in government purchasing.

This blog provides an overview of your obligations, and what steps you can take to ensure any tender evaluation committee you are a part of maintains its integrity.

It’s worth first noting the many sources of your obligations as a committee member. These include:

  • Commonwealth Procurement Rules;
  • Public Service Act 1999 (Cth), APS Values and Code of Conduct Requirements;
  • Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (Cth);
  • Ethics and Probity in Procurement Principles – Department of Finance; and
  • the tender specific Tender Evaluation and Probity Plan (Probity Plan).

In addition to this list, we expect you may have department specific protocols and policies. Ensure your probity advisor has provided a complete list as part of your mandatory project specific probity briefing.

Once you understand your general obligations, the process you should take is as follows, keeping in mind that the following list is for the evaluation process only:

  • Ensure responses are assessed against evaluation criteria only, and in accordance with the process set out in the Probity Plan. Assess only the information submitted as part of a tender response. Do not consider materials, information or reports which are outside of the tender response.
  • Evaluate responses to assess which represent best value for money consistent with Commonwealth purchasing policies using the set evaluation criteria and considering the overall risk of engaging the potential supplier who submitted the response.
  • Decisions must be made by an independent and objective evaluation.
  • Do not make assumptions in assessing responses.
  • Each member of the Evaluation Committee must ensure they understand the:
  • procurement documentation;
    • relationship between the evaluation criteria and the requirements in the procurement documentation; and
    • evaluation processes in the Probity Plan.
  • Members of the Evaluation Committee will be assumed to understand their obligations and are not excused by reason that they did not understand their obligations.
  • Maintain a clear audit trail in order to:
  • fully document the process;
    • demonstrate that evaluation committee members have acted objectively and logically;
    • demonstrate that the evaluation committee have assessed against the evaluation criteria;
    • substantiate the basis for the recommendations in the evaluation report; and
    • demonstrate that the evaluation process has been followed.
  • Seek probity advice where concerns or issues arise so that procurement risk is appropriately managed.

By doing all of this you will be demonstrating that:

  • the evaluation committee has complied with Commonwealth legislation and policy in conducting a clear and fair procurement process;
  • all tenders, or potential tenderers, are treated fairly and equitably consistent with the rules of natural justice and procedural fairness, and all interactions with tenderers or potential tenderers are to be conducted with honesty, fairness and in good faith; and
  • from the perspective of tenderers, commercially sensitive information, particularly that relating to commercial-in-confidence material, is protected at all times and all personnel are to comply with processes established to protect and secure commercially sensitive information.

If at any time you are uncertain as to your role or unclear as to the evaluation process, you should seek advice from the procurement advisors, legal advisors and probity advisors as appropriate and make adequate use of the resources around you to support you in this process.

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