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Tuesday, 8 February 2005
Page: 226


Senator Greig asked the President of the Senate, upon notice, on 25 November 2004:

With reference to the maintenance and conservation of Parliament House and its art collection:

(1)   Are external or private contractors used by the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) in the maintenance and conservation of Parliament House and its art collection; if so, is there a tendering system in place; if so, can a copy of the relevant documents for that tendering process be provided.

(2)   Does the DPS maintain a register of preferred contractors for the maintenance and conservation of Parliament House and its art collection; if so: (a) what eligibility criteria determine inclusion on the register; (b) are full-time or part-time Commonwealth or state public servants eligible to tender and/or be included on any register; and (c) can a copy of the register be provided.

(3)   Is it appropriate that part-time or full-time public servants are eligible to tender for Commonwealth contracts for the maintenance and conservation of Parliament House and its art collection; if so, on what grounds.

(4)   Is the President of the Senate aware of any full-time or part-time Commonwealth or state public servants being granted contracts for work on Parliament House and its art collection.

(5)   Is the President satisfied that the tendering process for work on the maintenance and conservation of Parliament House and its art collection is transparent, accountable and fair.

(6)   What insurance is required by external contractors before they are eligible to tender for work.

(7)   Are there any instances in which insurance requirements have been waived; if so: (a) what criteria applied to such waiver(s); (b) how many external contractors in the past 5 years have had the insurance criteria waived; and (c) how many of these have been full-time or part-time Commonwealth or state public servants.

(8)   Has the DPS reviewed insurance requirements for external contractors since the onset of the insurance industry crisis; if so, what was the outcome of that review.

(9)   Is consideration given to the impact of insurance requirements on the commercial viability of external contractors to bid for work maintaining and conserving Parliament House and its art collection.

(10)   Are tenders for work on Parliament House and its art collection consistent with the Commonwealth’s rules on tendering.

(11)   Is the code of practice of the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM) relevant to how and when work is carried out on Parliament House and its art collection; if so, what role does the AICCM code of practice or the AICCM itself, play in vetting external contractors granted contracts to supply goods or services to the Commonwealth.

(12)   Does national competition policy apply to individual Commonwealth and state and/or territory public servants in tendering for work to be done on Parliament House and its art collection; if so, how.


The President —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1)   External or private contractors are used by the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) for activities related to the maintenance and conservation of the Parliament House Art Collection (PHAC).

DPS has in place a panel of conservators which is used to source specialist service providers to meet operational requirements. The panel functions under a standing offer arrangement that was originally created through a Request for Quotation (RFQ) process in 2002. Details of the panel of conservators, the original RFQ and the model Deed of Standing Offer have been lodged with the Table Office.

For individual projects, conservators from the panel are either sole sourced or selected through a limited quotation process. DPS maintains the right to proceed to public tender (open or select) should that be considered appropriate.

Apart from the art collection, DPS uses external contractors extensively in relation to the maintenance of Parliament House itself, and has done so since 1988. In choosing external contractors, DPS is bound by the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines. Copies of relevant documents for all tendering processes since 1988 could be provided, but the amount of material involved would take some time to collate. I am prepared to offer Senator Greig a personal briefing by relevant DPS officers.

(2)   DPS maintains a register of its preferred contractors for the maintenance and conservation of PHAC and for some aspects of maintenance of Parliament House.

(a)  

   Original proposals for appointment to the panel of conservators were assessed in accordance with the evaluation criteria issued with the RFQ in November 2002 (Attachment A). Each of the members of the panel has specialist skills. New appointments to the panel (which are made on the basis of approaches to DPS about the availability of conservation work or approaches from DPS where required skills are not available from existing panel members) are also assessed in accordance with the original evaluation criteria.

(b)  

   There is no inclusion or exclusion of full-time or part-time Commonwealth or state public servants from participating in a tender process or being included on any register.

(c)  

   A list of the service providers currently on the DPS panel of conservators has been provided to the Table Office.

(3)   The Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines are silent on this matter, and nor does DPS take any policy position in relation to this matter.

(4)   Not to my knowledge.

(5)   On the advice I have, yes.

(6)   For all tenders, DPS provides a draft contract or deed of standing offer that identifies the types and levels of insurance cover required for the provision of services.

The normal requirement for art conservation works is for the contractor to have public liability and professional indemnity insurance. Tenderers are invited to provide particulars of their cover and, if that cover is not to the levels requested in the draft documentation, negotiations may take place.

The minimum for other maintenance contracts is for the contractor to have public liability insurance. Other insurance cover may be requested in particular cases. Tenderers are invited to provide particulars of their cover and, if that cover is not to the levels requested in the draft documentation, negotiations may take place. However, public liability requirements would never be waived completely.

(7)   DPS is not aware of any cases where public liability insurance for service providers engaged under contract in respect of the maintenance or conservation Parliament House or of PHAC has been waived.

Not all service providers have been in a position to obtain or offer professional indemnity insurance and there are many instances where DPS has decided not to require professional indemnity cover to be maintained (eg for a courier or printer).

(8)   Insurance requirements are considered on each occasion a tender is issued. The responses from tenderers to DPS’s requirements (as articulated in the draft contract/standing offer) are assessed as part of the evaluation process. No formal documented review of general contractor insurance requirements has been undertaken by DPS or the former joint departments.

(9)   The so called “insurance industry crisis” resulted in some consideration of DPS’s position regarding insurance requirements. Since then DPS has accepted that insurance coverage needs to be assessed for each individual contract based on the prevailing circumstances. It is recognised that insurance premiums are becoming expensive and in some situations insurance, especially professional indemnity insurance, has not been realistically available to some suppliers and service providers. In most situations, DPS identifies an expected level of insurance for a particular arrangement (eg $10 million for public liability cover); however, DPS is prepared to negotiate a variation from its initial position if:

(a)  

   the insurance offered by the service provider or supplier appears to be acceptable given the nature of the requirement; and

(b)  

   the risks involved appear to be manageable.

(10)   The conduct of tenders and other methods of procurement for the acquisition of services related to Parliament House and the Parliament House Art Collection are covered by, and are consistent with, the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines and DPS internal policies and procedures.

(11)   Conservation of works in the Parliament House Art Collection is expected to be carried out in accordance with the Code of Practice of the Australian Institute for Conservation of Cultural Material (AICCM). DPS assesses prospective conservation contractors on their ability to work to the principles contained in the AICCM Code of Practice. The AICCM itself has no direct role in vetting external contractors granted contracts to supply goods or services to DPS.

(12)   Individual Commonwealth, State or Territory public servants tendering for work on Parliament House or its art collection would do so otherwise than in their official capacities. To the best of DPS’s knowledge, they would not be affected by national competition policy in so tendering.