Eye on Government: Dept Foreign Affairs and Trade pioneers innovative RFT

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Can we achieve innovation or even agility in standard procurement? The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) recently did just that, with a recent Request for Tender (RFT) for the delivery of foreign aid programs.

In that past, DFAT would have released a tender 3 volumes thick, specifying in minute detail the requirements and preferred delivery model for the aid program — right down to the colour t-shirts the aid workers should wear. Not surprisingly, such a tender would have delivered a handful of responses.

This time around, DFAT delivered an innovative and, I have to admit, mature approach to a RFT — it released a simple document that discussed only objectives and outcomes, budget, and included an invitation to tenderers to specify the how.

This approach aligns with the tendering approach Mia recommends – i.e. it recognises that through a partnership with industry, government can deliver innovative solutions that generate strong value for money. (See our post: What is the role for suppliers in project governance?)

In response to this RFT, DFAT received almost 70 response representing some very innovative opportunities. And, while I’m guessing that some of those responses would be non-compliant, I am also sure that many many more would be proposing to deliver a competitive solution not considered by government in either whole or part. Furthermore, such an approach to tendering fosters an open approach to the tender and negotiations process, building a value and risk-sharing relationship between parties.

(As an interesting aside, I don’t think this approach simplifies the procurement process, and in fact it can make the evaluation process more complex. However, this approach does make it a simpler process for businesses to jump the first hurdle in applying for government work, which not only fosters innovation but also industry development.)

I do congratulate the Department for taking this approach. If we can achieve these outcomes for a solution as complex and sensitive as the delivery of our foreign aid program, then we can achieve this for many other types of services. I look forward to other government agencies, federal and state, following suit.

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