OCM is a market leader in the provision of probity assurance and advisory services. Our teams’ experience is drawn from successfully completing numerous engagements for all levels of Government.
Probity Advice and Reviews
OCM, as one of Australia’s leading probity practitioners, works with agencies and departments to ensure probity principles are consistently applied, providing confidence in the procurement process, no matter how complex. Importantly, this confidence encourages market participation, key stakeholders’ acceptance of the procurement outcomes and, above all, creates an environment conducive to achieving value for money.
OCM has worked extensively with government agencies across a range of sectors and jurisdictions. We have been engaged both in the roles of probity adviser and probity auditor.
Our practitioners’ depth and experience are reflected in both the number and type of projects completed. To-date this includes over 2,500 probity engagement across all key sectors and transactions including major infrastructure projects, human services’ projects, IT projects; contestability programmes and divestment projects.
Our key competitor differential is our people. OCM’s practitioners have a minimum of 10 years’ professional experience with the majority having previously worked for government in various roles including procurement and for agencies such as the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.
The calibre of our personnel enables us to deliver pragmatic, risk focused advice, referenced to similar previous projects where the advice has assisted in achieving successful outcomes.
Probity Plans and Better Practice Guides
Probity Plans are key enablers in the procurement process and play a critical part in ensuring that all project team members have a clear understanding of their probity obligations. OCM has developed an extensive better practice database of probity plans and better practice guides such as information sharing protocols, managing sensitive information and communication protocols which have been subject of review and endorsement at the highest levels of government.
Our probity better practice database enables us to quickly tailor probity plans and templates to specific client needs. In tailoring these plans we undertake an initial probity risk assessment, as well as surveying key project team members to identify project specific risks which need to be addressed as part of the probity plan. In this way, our clients are assured that appropriate fit-for-purpose risk mitigation strategies are developed and deployed.
Key deliverables through this approach include:
- A sound methodology with a focus on assisting agencies in achieving value for money
- Careful and practical security and confidentiality arrangements
- Compliance with relevant codes and policies
- Specialist advice focused on specific project risks.
Contract Letting / Management Advice and Reviews
OCM has been engaged by a number of agencies to review the contract letting process typically where matters have arisen during a procurement process, These matters can include conflict of interest management, breaches of confidentiality and proponent complaints.
We use a proven methodology and approach in the delivery of probity services. We apply the probity fundamentals as outlined in Government Procurement Policy requirements. We also ensure our work performed is aligned to the better practices and ethical standard articulated by Australian anti-corruption bodies such as the Vic IBAN, NSW ICAC and Queensland CCC.
The key probity principles referenced in the above material are:
- Fairness and Impartiality
- Competitive Process – ensuring value for money
- Consistency and Transparency
- Security and Confidentiality
- Identification and Management of Conflicts of Interest
- Compliance with Government Policies and Regulations
Our approach is also aligned to auditing standards Australian Standard on Assurance Engagements (ASAE) 3000, “Assurance Engagements Other than Audits or Reviews of Historical Financial Information,”. We understand that we are the only probity service provider that aligns our work to such an assurance standard, which is grounded in accepted professional service firm objectives.
In addition, we reference our work to “HB 325-2008 Assuring Probity in Decision-Making” issued by Standards Australia which incorporates the same probity principles and probity advising/auditing guidance as various Commonwealth and State publications on probity.
Our work has been subject to review by external bodies such as State and Federal Auditor Generals and judicial reviews and has not found to be wanting.
Probity Risk Management
Probity risk management is critical to procurement processes to have a clear understanding of the risks associated with the process. Procurement and contract letting are areas which are susceptible to corrupt conduct and are regularly investigated by corruption watchdog agencies and by government audit offices. Agencies need to ensure they clearly understand the probity and corruption risks to enable practical and relevant risk mitigation strategies to be implemented.
OCM has worked with a large number of government agencies across all jurisdictions to assist developing robust risk management processes. The engagement of OCM as the project’s Probity Advisor can assist in providing the market with confidence in the procurement and, in so doing, promote competition and drive value for money outcomes.
Typical key risks which emerge include perceived partiality, the offer of gifts and benefits, unequal access to information and breaches of confidentiality. Such risks have successfully been addressed by OCM during previous government procurement processes.
Project personnel who undertake procurement activities have a duty to act impartially, be transparent and accountable in their dealings and achieve a value for money outcome for the spend of public money. It is critical for public sector officers to understand their role, the risks that are faced by the project and their obligation to run a probity rich process.
Not all agencies in government have a centralised procurement function, with some agencies and organisations having procurement functions performed by frontline staff, individual business units and potentially contractors. It is therefore importance that any individual who has a responsibility for procurement is appropriately trained in probity risk and obligations to ensure probity during the process.
OCM has undertaken probity and ethics training, workshops and briefings for all levels of government. This training is typically project specific and targeted to project team members and key stakeholders. The growing trend of sourcing project personnel from the private sector has further underlined the need for such training.
The probity and ethics training and awareness sessions provided by OCM provides project personnel with pragmatic examples and insights as to how best to undertake the project tasks in a manner that is consistent with their probity and ethical obligations.
Managing Conflicts of Interest
A key probity risk in procurement transactions is that of conflicts of interest. From a government perspective, conflicts can occur within two categories: pecuniary and non-pecuniary. The other dimension to conflicts is forming a view as to whether the conflict is actual, potential or perceived.
Conflicts of interest are a common occurrence and their presence does not necessarily imply that a process is corrupt or tainted.
The key issue with conflicts is ensuring that they are identified in a timely manner and that appropriate strategies are developed and implemented to manage the specific conflicts.
Building and maintaining ongoing relationships with suppliers and service providers is an essential element in transacting business. However, there is a need to ensure that such relationships do not create situations of a conflict or perceived conflict for agency personnel.
The OCM probity team regularly provides advice on strategies and controls for the identification and management of conflicts of interest. We have developed protocols, guidelines, and declarations consistent with better practice guidance, to assist project personnel and key stakeholders better understand their obligations and responsibilities in relation to conflicts of interest.
We review each identified conflict and provide advice on appropriate management strategies to ensure the conflict does not adversely impact on an individual’s ability to perform their role in an impartial manner.
Specific areas in which OCM has provided conflict of interest advice include: unauthorised secondary employment; previous employment relationships; common consultant and consortia membership; and family relationships and friendships. We have also provided advice in situations where competing roles/conflicting duties roles arise.