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Tuesday, 8 August 2006
Page: 106

Mr Bevis asked the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, in writing, on 10 May 2005:

(1)   Is the Department of Defence planning to rewrite the Defence Instruction relating to the engagement of contracted staff.

(2)   In respect of the department’s tendering process for health practitioners, pharmacists and dentists, is Defence now favouring incorporated entities over individuals.

(3)   For each year since 2001, how many tenders for the delivery of health, pharmacy and dental services were let to (a) incorporated entities and (b) individuals

(4)   Is the department aware of contractor disquiet over the tender process for these services, in particular, with claims of irregularities such as (a) documents requesting incorrect qualifications for particular positions, (b) the required business and professional insurances being difficult to arrange, and (c) information at public meetings addressed by Area Health Service (AHS) South Queensland personnel being inconsistent.

(5)   Is the department aware that some practitioners currently doing the work have refused to participate in the tendering process because the process was so poor.

(6)   Is the department aware that even some applicants who were identified as preferred tenderers resigned in disgust and refused to participate further in the process.

(7)   Is the department aware that some applicants, on receiving the letters of the successful tenderers resigned immediately, disgusted with the process.

(8)   Has the department sought to cover these sudden vacancies by sourcing staff from employment agencies; if so, (a) which agencies provided staff, (b) how many staff have been placed by agencies, and (c) how many new staff needed to be trained in Defence procedures.

(9)   Did the AHS assure contractors that if they had the technical experience but their price was too high, the AHS would negotiate first with those identified as being the most technically able to provide the service; if not, why not.

(10)   Why did the AHS tell contractors in South Queensland that they should sign up with an agency prior to tendering submissions as well as putting in individual tenders.

(11)   Is it the case that companies that are in negotiations with the AHS are applying pressure to staff to sign with them for $3 to $4 per hour less than they are currently receiving with the threat that, if they reject the proposal, they will not be considered for Defence employment; if so, how does the Minister justify this.

(12)   Can the Minister confirm that the mandatory qualifications for the employment of general and other medical practitioners by the AHS South Queensland are (a) qualifications as a Medial Practitioner and eligible for unrestricted registration in the State or Territory of application, (b) vocational registration, undergoing an appropriate program of medical training or able to show evidence of active participation in continuing professional development, and (c) strong oral and written communication skills and the ability to communicate at all levels of the organisation.

(13)   Since 1 September 2003, have all medical practitioners employed by the AHS South Queensland directly or by a firm contracted by the AHS South Queensland to provide medical practitioners met these mandatory qualifications; if not, why were they employed.

(14)   Since 1 September 2003, have any firms been contracted by the AHS South Queensland to provide medical practitioners; is so, what are the names of those firms.

Mr Billson (Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(1)   No. Defence is planning to withdraw the instruction as it no longer meets Commonwealth and Defence policy requirements. Future contracting for civilian health practitioners will be undertaken using current approved Defence contracting templates.

(2)   Chapter 4.10 of the Defence Procurement Policy Manual states “…wherever possible, it is strongly recommended that contracts not be entered into with natural persons.” A natural person is defined as an individual rather than a company or partnership, who contracts to provide goods or services to Defence.

(3)   The information requested is not readily available. Collation of the information requested would involve an unreasonable use of Defence resources to manually search through thousands of contract files around the country.

(4) (a)   , (b), (c)      Defence is aware that a number of contractors were unhappy with the tender process and some have claimed irregularities with various aspects of the tender process.

(5)   Defence is aware that some contractors were unhappy with the tender process and chose not to submit a tender.

(6)   and (7) Defence is aware that some tenderers voluntarily withdrew from the tender process prior to the awarding of contracts. Information on their reasons for withdrawal from the tender process is not available. Defence is not aware of existing contractors ‘resigning’ because of the tender process. Contractors are unable to ‘resign’ per se, and have a contractual obligation to provide services until their contract expires. Contracts may be terminated early through mutual agreement between the contractor and Defence. This occurs from time to time for a variety of reasons. Defence does not keep information on the reasons for contractors seeking an early termination of their contract. Known reasons include poor health, changed family commitments, pregnancy, further education, and alternative full-time work.

(8) (a)   , (b), (c) Vacancies caused by tenderers not proceeding to contract or terminating their contracts prior to their expiry date are filled either through accessing companies on the National Standing Offer Panel to provide the required services, or through an open tender process. All staff engaged by Defence are provided assistance at the local level to familiarise them with Defence procedures and documentation. It is not possible to separately identify information relating to tenderers terminating their contracts as a result of the National Standing Offer tender process.

(9)   No. The overarching requirement for all Commonwealth procurement is value for money. Tenders with high technical merit and high prices may not represent good value for money. Defence enters negotiations with those tenderers that represent best value for money, and is under no obligation to enter negotiations with all tenderers.

(10)   Individual health providers may improve their chances of gaining contract work with Defence if they tender through multiple entities. There were no formal discussions to this effect by Defence or Area Health Service South Queensland.

(11)   Defence is not a party to negotiations between tenderers and their employees or potential employees over employment conditions, and is unable to comment on the matter raised in this question.

(12)   No. However, the Statement of Work used in the recent tender process for medical officers, includes the mandatory qualifications and experience stated in the question.

(13)   Yes.

(14)   Yes. Incorporated entities that have provided medical practitioners to Area Health Service South Queensland since 2003 are as follows:

  • A&M Patel Medical Pty Ltd;
  • Australian Aeromedical Specialist Services;
  • B McGowan Medical Pty Ltd;
  • CJ Price Medical Pty Ltd;
  • Dr T M Casey Medical Pty Ltd;
  • Fine, Dr S. & Dr G Shar Pty Ltd;
  • Geoffery Tilse (Medical) Pty Ltd;
  • JE & EB Evans (Medical) Pty Ltd;
  • John Arthur Allan Pty Ltd;
  • John Teh Medical Pty Ltd;
  • LE McDowell Pty Ltd;
  • Malcolm Ash Medical Pty Ltd;
  • Malcolm Wallace Pty Ltd;
  • Medical Recruitment Pty Ltd;
  • Naughton Medical Pty Ltd;
  • Navmed Consulting Pty Ltd;
  • O'Loan Medical Pty Ltd;
  • Overgrove Pty Ltd;
  • P.F. Sharwood Medical Pty Ltd;
  • Paul Atkins Medical Pty Ltd;
  • Paul V Alexander Pty Ltd;
  • Peter Rowan Medical Pty Ltd;
  • PF Wheatley Medical Pty Ltd;
  • S. Kumar Medical Pty Ltd;
  • Shearing Medical Pty Ltd;
  • SM Fairbairn Medical Pty Ltd;
  • TCG Careers & Management Pty Ltd;
  • Uniting Health Care Group; and
  • VG Bampton Pty Ltd.