Local firms get $6.5 million in ACT government contracts since procurement policy started this year
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Local firms get $6.5 million in ACT government contracts since procurement policy started this year

Local firms have won $6.5 million in ACT government contracts since the start of a new policy aiming to boost Canberra region companies winning tenders.

The government two years ago pledged to create a new policy to level the playing field between local firms and interstate companies vying for territory contracts, a policy that has been officially operating since January this year.

ACT local industry advocate Kate Lundy with Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

ACT local industry advocate Kate Lundy with Chief Minister Andrew Barr.Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

Since then, the government has awarded $6.5 million in six contracts to local firms valued at $200,000 or more, out of 13 completed goods and services contracts since January, and $1.3 million in contracts between $25,000 and $200,000 to five SMEs, four local firms and another four that fit both categories.

The policy, which gives local firms a 10 per cent extra weighting, and demands companies explain how they will employ Canberra region workers or subcontractors, was integrated into the government's online tenders website in May.

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But former ALP senator and now ACT local industry advocate Kate Lundy said a planned six month review of the policy had been delayed until later this year, as most of the tenders issued since it came into effect had not been completed, so they could not be evaluated.

She said that to date, 13 of 205 procurement and infrastructure projects worth more than $200,000 had been completed, and it would be "some time before we have a good sample" to analyse to see if the policy was achieving its aims.

Of the 13 big contracts, 45 per cent went to local firms, while 25 of the 100 projects worth between $25,000 and $200,000 went to local companies or SMEs, or both.

Ms Lundy said she had originally wanted a six monthly review, but she was instead completing a 'continual analysis' of the policy, and the 10 per cent weighting, with a more fulsome review expected to be completed in the next month or so.

One of the key issues Ms Lundy has also been examining was the claims large interstate firms are making in their tenders, particularly around direct and indirect economic contribution to the territory.

"Part of this all is calling out that and challenging assertions when assertions about contribution are being made by out of town companies, and its often the large companies that have the capacity to be completing large submissions that are doing that," she said.

"The experience of procurement services is that when big promises are being made, and there's a wealth of experience in Canberra about promises being made that are not being met, that part of the test is whether that is real or not."

Ms Lundy said she was also working on a 'cultural change' in territory directorates to write tenders that local firms could realistically supply goods and services to - such as breaking up a large contract into a series of smaller tenders that different companies could supply.

Daniel Burdon is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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