Did you know many government procurements are only open to businesses that have registered for the required government purchasing panels or prequalification registers?
There’s an old adage that says you can’t be invited to dance, if you’re not at the ball. As an analogy for the government procurement environment, it works quite well – because unless your business is registered on the relevant government purchasing panels or prequalification schemes, you may not be invited (or indeed eligible) to respond to a request for quotation or tender.
Purchasing panels and prequalification registers exist across both the federal and state government procurement regimes – spanning technology, construction, marketing and more. Being accepted onto these panels is your ticket to the ball.
After that, you still need to gain an invitation to dance… (OK, analogy over.)
Finding the right panel
Both the Victorian and federal governments release a great deal of procurement information for industry, which includes information on purchasing panels, prequalification panels and registers.
Some of the formal buying arrangements are open – meaning government can add to them at any time through either a formal tender or registration process. Others are closed – meaning once the panel has been established through a formal tender process, further suppliers cannot be added until the panel is renewed.
Below are some of the largest and most well-known purchasing panels and registers.
Victorian State Purchase Contracts
A handful of prequalification arrangements are managed under the Victorian State Purchase Contracts (SPC) regime. The following three registers are open arrangements (no end date or closing date) where suppliers can apply to register for prequalification through a simple online process:
- eServices Register for the procurement of a wide range of ICT related services
- Marketing Services Register for the procurement of marketing and communications related services
- IT Infrastructure Register for the procurement of servers, storage and network related equipment, maintenance and support
The 40-odd SPCs also include a number of closed panel arrangements, where there is a limited period for a business to apply (tender) for panel membership. These purchasing panels don’t re-open until contract expiry, so to join take note of the proposed refresh dates and keep a lookout for their retender.
Victorian Construction Supplier Register
The Victorian Construction Supplier Register (CSR) is an open prequalification arrangement for businesses involved in supplying construction, works or construction-related consultancies or services. This register is a must for any business operating in this space wanting to supply to the Victorian Government. Local Councils can also access the CSR for construction-related procurements.
VicRoads maintains a prequalification scheme for all works and related consultancies associated with roads and bridges.
Victorian Procurement Activity Plans
Annual Procurement Activity Plans for all Victorian Government departments and mandated public bodies are published online for suppliers to identify relevant upcoming opportunities. These can include intentions to go to market to establish new purchasing panels and registers.
(Incidentally, in order to be eligible for many of the proposed procurements, businesses will need to be registered on existing purchasing panels.)
Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) Marketplace
By far the most well known federal government register is the Digital Marketplace. Set up to help smaller businesses compete for the government’s $6 Billion a year spend on ICT products and services, the Digital Marketplace has the following categories:
- Strategy and policy
- User research and design
- Agile delivery and governance
- Software engineering and development
- Change, training and transformation
- Marketing, communications and engagement
- Cyber security
- Data science
- Emerging technologies
- Support and operations
- Content and publishing
Other federal government purchasing arrangements
Just recently the federal government released an open tender for the first category of a proposed Hardware Marketplace to make purchasing ICT hardware simpler, clearer and faster for buyers and sellers. Enterprise Storage will be the first category under consideration. The Hardware Marketplace will consolidate three expiring panels:
- ICT Hardware and Associated Services panel (Hardware panel)
- Mobile panel, and
- Commercial Off The Shelf Software and Hardware panel (hardware categories).
Due to its breadth and size, the federal government also operates a large number of multi-use lists (their term for purchasing panels and prequalification arrangements) – these are listed at www.tenders.gov.au. The site has a great search function for businesses to search for multi-use lists applicable to their sector. Review these and apply for those that are currently open.
Applying to panels
As you can see, across government there is a wide range of purchasing panels and registers available for business to join. They vary widely in terms of when they are open for new applications, how long the agreement will last and the number of suppliers that can join the panel.
When applying to join a panel make sure you clearly understand the nature of the services the panel is interested in. You need to make sure you have the right skillset and capacity to provide the services. In this case, ongoing capacity is just as important as capability.
Depending on the panel, applicants may need to demonstrate they have management capability, industry qualifications, expertise, experience, technical and financial capacity to deliver government projects. Other information required may include details of insurance policies and multiple references.
Ensure your profile stands out: A government buyer will select businesses to receive requests for quotation based purely on the information provided in company profiles. So put in the effort to clearly articulate the nature of your services and points of differentiation, and make sure your profile gives the government buyer a compelling reason to act.
References: Government wants to ensure it is dealing with businesses that are financially viable and not solely reliant on government work. So, while one government reference is useful, it’s also valuable to identify your experience that is broader than government. Also demonstrate your capacity to provide services – not just from a resource perspective but also financial capacity.
Some points on pricing: Contract ceiling prices can be applicable for each panel, and where they are required will form part of government’s assessment of your bid. Pricing should also be provided against roles and different types of services where applicable. For a hint, review the cost for existing government contracts. The Victorian Government Purchasing Board (VGPB) requires each department and mandated public body to report a summary of all contracts equal to or greater than $100,000 (including GST). Full contract information for contracts with an estimated value exceeding $10 million must also be published. This information can be accessed via www.contracts.vic.gov.au.
As with writing bids, the secret to a successful panel application is attention to detail. Don’t make assumptions or take shortcuts answering questions. Take a look at our blog on “Answering four questions” for Government bids. The same principles apply for your panel application.