Of the 2100 ICT suppliers* to Federal Government only twenty-nine have signed up to the Register of Businesses to Government. The register signifies compliance with and support for the Industry Principles of Engagement on ICT document released by the Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance) in May 2010.
Of the twenty-nine registrants only two – Fujitsu and CSC – are ‘tier one’ suppliers to government. A further two registrants – the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and Australian Industry Group (AIG) – are peak industry associations which were actively engaged in the development of the industry principles document.
The remaining registrants are largely small to medium suppliers, perhaps unsurprising considering one of the key Industry Principles is more equitable inclusion of small businesses in the tendering and procurement process for government business.
Unlike the Register of Lobbyists, ICT suppliers are not required to register in order to engage with government business. The Finance website makes clear that “a supplier’s inclusion on the Principles of Engagement register does not imply that the Australian Government endorses the use of that supplier’s product or services”.
Rather, the purpose of registering is for businesses to “declare their intention to promote and support the Principles”. Perhaps it is simply the lack of mandatory status that has inspired so few suppliers to register.
AIIA CEO Ian Birks has been vocal in encouraging suppliers to register.
“We believe commitment to these principles will encourage a more efficient and productive relationship between Government and industry, deliver better outcomes to both the ICT sector and Government agencies, and foster a culture of innovation that benefits all parties.”
“We strongly encourage our members to adopt these Principles in order to demonstrate a commitment to an ethical, efficient and mature relationship with the Australian Government,” Mr Birks said in a statement posted on the AIIA website on 25 May 2010.
The Government and Industry Principles of Engagement on ICT were a direct response to the Gershon Review’s recommendation to develop client and supplier codes of conduct to help improve the operation of the government ICT marketplace.
It was first made public at the eGovernment forum at Sydney’s CeBIT Conference in May and is based around five target areas:
- Enabling equitable participation by all small, medium and large enterprises;
- Ensuring that information requests are fair and assessed in good time; and
- Recognising that the cost of engagement should be proportional to the value of the activity.
- Building and maintaining an effective, cooperative relationship;
- Facilitating the sharing of knowledge and transfer of skills;
- Encouraging staff to acquire and maintain professional standards, individual competencies and marketplace understanding; and
- Assigning ICT activities to individuals who have the necessary authority, capability and availability.
- Demonstrating leadership that is outcome oriented;
- Ensuring activities are aligned to whole-of-government priorities, strategies and approaches;
- Managing activities with a high degree of professionalism, integrity, probity and fairness; and
- Identifying, analysing, managing and mitigating risks to achieve best outcomes.
- Resolving issues through timely, effective and equitable mechanisms and processes.
- Leading activities towards stated outcomes;
- Developing an agreed understanding of ICT goals, responsibilities, and timeframes in line with best practice, value for money, and whole-of-life costs;
- Creating an environment that fosters innovation, builds capability for Government and provides opportunities for Industry; and
- Abiding by relevant confidentiality, probity and security requirements, in particular those that relate to information or services provided by either party.
The general absence of the major ICT suppliers to the Federal Government on the register, and the overall low number of registrants, begs the question as to why there has been so little inclination to sign up. Perhaps it is that suppliers can see no direct benefit of doing so and no punitive measures for failing to do so.
*According to Intermedium data 2009-10