Australia: Queensland Government procurement policies embrace social benefits

WHO SHOULD READ THIS

  • Participants which procure with the Queensland Government and organisations in the social benefits sphere.

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • The Queensland Government has updated the Queensland Procurement Policy and introduced a new Social Procurement Guide to advance social objectives.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

  • Consider the inclusion of social benefits in tenders or how you can offer your services to tenderers.

The Queensland Government has recently updated the Queensland Procurement Policy (QPP) and released the new 'Social Procurement Guide' (Guide) as part of the Queensland Government's initiative to use the procurement process to advance its economic, environmental and social objectives and to support the long-term wellbeing of the broader community.

These reforms are designed to change the way in which businesses consider their broader social impacts when tendering for Government contracts and to help deliver on the Government's policy objectives. As a by-product, the social procurement policy reforms are expected to create genuine and meaningful economic opportunities for social and mission-oriented enterprises as well.

This article explores the social procurement policy reforms to be considered when tendering with the Queensland Government and aims to highlight the potential opportunities that may be available to social enterprises.

What changes were made to the QPP?

Updates to the QPP focused on using procurement to provide benefits to the community. The new commitments include:

  • requiring the application of industrial relations 'best practice principles' for all major projects valued at $100 million and above and declared projects
  • prioritising 'Buy Queensland first' for food and beverages at events and corporate functions
  • increasing spend with genuine, quality social enterprises and providing award based wages and pathways to mainstream employment for disadvantaged Queenslanders, and
  • ensuring that all Queensland procurement complies with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).

What is social procurement?

Social procurement involves using the Queensland Government's purchasing power to generate social benefits, adding value to procurement outcomes and supporting supplier and workforce diversity.

Social benefits are positive impacts on people, places or communities generated through procurement and include:

  • promoting more diverse and inclusive workforces through the creation of training and employment opportunities, particularly for disadvantaged or marginalised jobseekers (such as people with disability)
  • addressing unemployment, crime, vandalism and economic decline
  • encouraging local economic development and growth
  • helping people to participate in the community and economy
  • making sure procurement supports diversity in the supply market by generating opportunities for employers such as small and regional businesses, social enterprises and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses, and
  • considering supplier's corporate social responsibility policies and practice.

What is the Guide?

The Guide works in conjunction with, and expands upon, objectives in the QPP. These objectives include the requirement that tenders provide value for money in the context of economic, environmental and social objectives. The Guide applies to all procurement proposals submitted to the Queensland Government and encourages suppliers to 'add value' in government spending through providing social benefits.

Tenders incorporating social benefits must continue to comply with the QPP and provide a competitive offering and value for money. The Government's expectation is that incorporating social benefits in a tender will not result in added expenses for tenderers.

Does the Guide apply to me?

All tenders submitted to the Queensland Government should include targeted provisions that aim to achieve social benefits.

To what extent must social benefits be included in a tender?

The Guide stipulates that tenders dealing with significant procurement should embed social benefit considerations into the overall procurement process from the outset. The extent to which tenders must include social benefits is analysed on a case-by-case basis, as there is no set minimum or maximum weighting required to be given to social benefits in tenders.

Tenderers are able to direct what social benefits they will include in their tenders. However, the following should be considered:

  • whether the social benefits are in proportion to the size, value, risk and objective of the contract
  • the relevancy of the social benefits to the community the project is operating within
  • government and agency goals, and
  • ether the social benefits are achievable.

What types of social benefits can I include?

Social benefits can be achieved in a range of ways, including:

  • using social benefit suppliers or enterprises in the supply chain (being supplies that have a social purpose or mission)
  • purchasing fair trade products
  • creating opportunities for apprentices, and
  • employing young or long-term unemployed people.

How do I comply with the Guide?

The Guide advises that tenders should incorporate social benefits in a tender by using:

  • set asides – this requires a specific procurement initiative or portion of a procurement spend to be quarantined and offered to a particular grouping or type of business, such as social enterprises, and/or
  • social clauses – this requires clauses in tender and contract documents to include social benefit requirements (such as engaging indigenous trainees). These clauses must include measureable performance indicators, details on how the social benefits will be monitored and describe what management processes are in place to evaluate the suppliers' performance (it is recommended that you understand any legal obligations arising from such clauses).

The Guide requires that social impacts and suppliers' commitments should be actively monitored and managed regularly. In some instances, this may require expert support or guidance over the life of the contract.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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