“Areas for Improvement” in WA’s Strategic Advice Purchasing

A new audit of Western Australian state government entities found that ppurchasing policies could be improved by defining “strategic advisory boards”.

The Commissioner of Main Roads, Department of Training and Workforce Development, Department of Transport, Forest Products Commission, Housing Commission, Lottery Commission, Public Transport Authority of Western Australia and the Western Australian Land Information Authority were assessed.

The Audit reviewed whether they comply with reporting requirements and whether their policies, procedures and guidelines for engaging consultants for strategic advice are appropriate.

Entities generally comply with Premier’s Circular 2016/02, but there is room for improvement, Auditor General Caroline Spencer said.

Internal competency assessments should be conducted for consulting services below $ 50,000, and the definition of “strategic advice” needs to be clearer, according to the report.

The circular was issued after the state government identified the need for centralized control when public sector entities hire consultants for policy advice.

It requires entities to seek approval from the Prime Minister’s Department and Cabinet for proposals valued at $ 50,000 and over in order to establish contractual arrangements with external consultants.

The report recommended that tThe circular be updated by September 30, 2019 to provide additional guidance and consider points to entities as to what constitutes “strategic advice on which government must act.”

He also suggested that state government entities ensure that:

  • The policies and procedures are up to date and refer to the requirements of the Prime Minister’s circular governing the procurement of consultants for strategic advice, where applicable.
  • Policies require an in-house skills assessment for consulting projects to confirm that entity staff do not have the necessary skills before hiring a consultant.
  • Consultant contracts for strategic advisory services valued at $ 50,000 and over are appropriately submitted to the DPC for approval prior to the consultant’s engagement.

Spencer said narrow-scope audits like this “give an indication of the health of various financial management controls.”

“It is important to note that the findings of these audits are likely representative of problems in other government entities that were not in our sample,” she said.

“I encourage all entities, and not just those audited, to periodically assess themselves against these risks and controls on an ongoing basis. “


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