After two years of working to implement his procurement reform agenda, Vince Nair, Head of State Procurement at the NSW Department of Commerce (DoC), has abruptly departed.
Nair’s departure is the last in a long series of changes in the upper echelons of DoC over the past two years. It comes six or so months after the departure of Robert Wheeler from the then Office of Information Technology (now the Office of the NSW CIO), and more recently the departure of Jane Wolfe from the head of the Operations Division. Prior to that, DoC’s Chief Executive, Kate McKenzie resigned to take up a position with Telstra and previous Deputy Director General, Alan Griffin, moved to take up other duties within the Public Sector.
Mid point in his tenure with DoC, Nair experienced sweeping procurement reforms, which wrested procurement policy away from State Procurement to NSW Treasury. At the heart of this change was the perceived need to have the powerful central agency control procurement. The intention being to avoid the issues which beset Sydney Water’s intended replacement of its billing system, and the commissioning of the Millennium trains.
Implemented in July 2004, the procurement reforms opened the door for greater agency autonomy over certain ICT procurements (those over $5m in value, and those of any value for which a State Contracts Control Board Period Contract does not exist). Agencies are able to plan and manage their own procurements, provided stringent accreditation and gateway review processes are followed, both of which are controlled at key points by Treasury.
These reforms have, in effect, left State Procurement having to tout for a role in procurements where the procuring agency is accredited by Treasury to conduct its own procurements.
A proponent of strategic sourcing favoured by the private sector, Nair was understood to be in discussion with a number of agencies about how a strategic sourcing model might work for them, and the ways in which State Procurement could assist in achieving these outcomes.
Nair’s personal vision for procurement reform includes shorter procurement cycles, more communication to vendors during the evaluation stage of the procurement process and innovations that would reduce the cost of tendering to both government and industry.
Nair is an advocate for greater access to training programs to skill and accredit the 6,000 procurement officials in the government sector, who annually procure approximately $10bn in goods and services. Intermedium understands that the ICT component of that figure to be approximately $1bn, across the total NSW public sector.
Speaking at Intermedium’s NSW Government ICT Market Master Class only days before his departure, Nair said there was great scope for government CIOs to engage with ICT companies to better understand what the ICT industry had to offer. He believes public sector CIOs should appropriately tap into the industry’s store of expertise, by examining successful precedents in other government jurisdictions.
Nair’s departure points to a prolonged period of turmoil at the top of DoC – unrest which appears to be affecting other areas. The Department appears to be struggling to release an updated eGoverment strategy, for instance. The last strategy, which was endorsed by Cabinet, was released in 1977. In ICT terms, this is a millennium ago. It is rumoured that a new strategy was drafted more than a year ago, but is yet to see the light of day.