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Whole-of-government approach

In 2018–19 Finance provided a range of whole-of-government services to assist entities across government in achieving their priorities, supporting an efficient public sector.

The Department takes a partnership approach to engagement and building capability.

Finance worked collaboratively with other entities to identify the most efficient and effective whole-of-government services across a range of areas, including procurement, property, travel, technology and advertising.

Enhancements to electoral legislation

Finance is responsible for drafting amendments to Australia’s electoral legislation—the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 and the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984—to give effect to policy decisions of the Government.

Ahead of the May 2019 federal election, in response to reports tabled by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, Finance was involved in the implementation of two major electoral reforms. This followed reform earlier in the parliamentary term to enhance the political communication authorisation regime. Finance worked closely with the Australian Electoral Commission and other government entities (including the Australian Government Solicitor, Office of Parliamentary Counsel, the Attorney-General’s Department and PM&C) to develop and deliver these electoral reforms.

The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Act 2018 improved the operation and transparency of political finance regulation by:

  • improving the consistency of registration and reporting requirements that apply to all entities that seek to influence Australian voters—registered political parties, candidates, Senate groups or non-party-political actors
  • reducing perceived and actual foreign influence on the Commonwealth electoral system by restricting foreign political donations
  • tying public election funding to the amount of actual electoral expenditure incurred.

These measures formed part of a comprehensive suite of government reforms to address abroad spectrum of foreign interference and covert political influence in Australia.

The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Modernisation and Other Measures) Act 2019 modernised voting and scrutiny processes and improved the federal candidate nominations process by:

  • implementing critical reforms to ensure the efficient delivery of the 2019 federal election
  • making it compulsory for candidates to complete a Qualification Checklist demonstratingtheir eligibility under section 44 of the Constitution.

Snowy 2.0 Taskforce

Finance, in partnership with the Department of the Environment and Energy, led a taskforce to provide commercial and investment advice to the Government on the feasibility of Snowy 2.0. As a result of the work undertaken by the Taskforce, the Government announced, on 26 February 2019, that it had provided Snowy Hydro Limited with shareholder approval for it to proceed with Snowy 2.0.

This project will expand the existing Snowy Mountains Hydro scheme by linking two existing Snowy Scheme Dams through approximately 27 kilometres of underground tunnels and involves the construction of a power station 800 metres underground.

It will provide additional generation capacity of 2,000 megawatts, enough to power the equivalent of 500,000 homes at peak demand, and address the electricity market’s need for large scale storage and support for renewable generation. Snowy 2.0 is expected to produce first power in 2024–25.

The Taskforce worked in close collaboration with Snowy Hydro Limited throughout 2018–19 to analyse the business case and more than 6,800 pages of supporting information. Finance’s expertise in providing coordinated and comprehensive investment advice to the Government resulted in the Commonwealth’s decision to support delivery of the project including an equity investment of $1.38 billion over six years, subject to Snowy Hydro Limited achieving financial close and the commencement of the main project works, expected in 2020.

Finance continues to work closely with the Department of the Environment and Energy and Snowy Hydro Limited as the company progresses the required environmental approvals and funding arrangements for the main works on Snowy 2.0.

AusTender re-platform

During 2018–19, Finance successfully and seamlessly transitioned AusTender, the Australian Government’s procurement information system, to a more contemporary and flexible platform.

The AusTender re-platform project was a key initiative in Finance’s overall strategy to ensure AusTender's sustainability, enhancing its functionality by modernising the underlying technology and software products of the system.

As part of the project, the Department needed to rewrite the code and rebuild the software, line by line, for every field, database, selection widget and screen. There was also a need for a significant amount of quality, load and performance testing. For example, the Department ran over 60,000 human checks, migrated around eight million records to the new platform and conducted over 15 rounds of formal testing across multiple devices and operating systems.

The transition to the new platform was the culmination of approximately two and a half years of work. The new system is now delivering greater flexibility in infrastructure design, lower maintenance overheads and increased levels of scalability and redundancy to meet future procurement reporting needs.

AusTender now has the capability to deploy new or enhanced functionality more quickly and simply, enabling Finance, over time, to deliver future efficiencies to government entities and the business community.

Procurement negotiations — Free Trade Agreements

In 2018–19, Finance collaborated with key stakeholders and provided quality technical advice, expertise and knowledge on government procurement as part of negotiations for a number of Free Trade Agreements. In particular, Finance worked closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade during negotiations to ensure that negotiators understood key elements of the Commonwealth Procurement Framework and to explain the implications of Trade Agreement obligations to stakeholders.

Two significant negotiations in which Finance played a key role were:

  • the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which commenced on 31 December 2018. The CPTPP is the largest trade deal that Australia has been party to since 1994
  • Australia’s accession to the World Trade Organization Agreement on Government Procurement, with Australia becoming the 48th member on 5 May 2019.

Finance also worked to facilitate the passage of the Government Procurement (Judicial Review) Act 2018, which establishes an independent procurement supplier complaints mechanism—an important prerequisite to finalising these agreements. Finance worked closely with stakeholders to develop comprehensive guidance to assist entities to implement and comply with the new complaints arrangements, which came into effect on 19 April 2019.

Finance is now providing support to Australia’s efforts to pursue a new Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, where negotiations started in June 2018.

Procurement self-help tools

In 2018–19 Finance released a suite of procurement self-help tools and associated guidance that will help to streamline and standardise routine procurements. The new tools will reduce the administrative burden and costs associated with procurement for both Commonwealth entities and the business community.

These tools, which were developed as part of CoPE, include:

  • BuyRight—an online procedure tool that guides procurers step-by-step through theprocess of undertaking a simple procurement and ensures that they understand and comply with all relevant obligations
  • Commonwealth ClauseBank—a repository of pre-drafted standard contract terms that Commonwealth entities can use within existing contract templates or in bespoke contracts when appropriate. The repository encourages greater consistency in contracting practices and minimises legal costs for both customer and suppliers
  • Commonwealth Contracting Suite Deed of Standing Offer—an automated smart form system that generates a standardised set of terms and conditions for use in standing offers (panels). The new system will minimise administrative burden and legal costs
  • Contract Management Guide—a guide that gives practical contract management advice to assist Commonwealth officials to effectively manage contracts and achieve value for money outcomes.

Finance will continue to refine and improve these self-help tools and work with stakeholders to identify areas for further standardisation and streamlining.