Consult Australia releases an industry guideline to promote its ‘model client’ policy

18 June 2018 4 min. read
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Consult Australia has released an industry policy guideline which it hopes will encourage government to act honestly when dealing with private sector contractors. 

The policy, titled ‘Model Client Policy; Proposals for all government jurisdictions’, was released earlier this month by Consult Australia. It contains 12 core principles which individually and together will ensure that government bodies at local, state and federal levels behave in a fair and ethical manner.  

Consult Australia is a highly-regarded industry association for consulting firms in the natural and built environment. They work with a number of Australia’s largest consulting, architecture and engineering firms to advocate for best policy and practice in the industry. Consult Australia aim to act as a centralised voice for the industry whilst driving success for its member firms. 

The ‘model client’ policy demonstrates a shift in how the Australian government can interact with private contractors. Asking the public sector to show leadership by behaving ethically and fairly when dealing with suppliers, the association asks the government to ‘lead by example’.  

The aim of the policy is to ensure that both the contractor and the contractee mutually benefit from the outcomes and that neither use their market power to influence the contract itself. “Being a ‘model client’ means working collaboratively with industry on projects, and achieving mutually beneficial outcomes. It formalises governments’ intent to do things better by putting clear obligations in place,” states the policy document.

This is said to be done through 12 principals which include: Recognising the role of each party, planning and prioritisation of projects, appropriate risk allocation, fairness in contracting, accessbility and affordability of professional indemnity insurance, adopton of standard contracts, adoption of proportionate liability, quality of documentation, supporting innovation, reducing the cost of bidding for work, better decision making, and addressing the underlying causes.

Consult Australia releases an industry guideline to promote its ‘model client’ policy

By adopting the model into policy, the advisory believes that this will make the public sector a more attractive client for the private sector to engage with. They advocate that adopting the ‘model client’ policy will create business confidence in the consulting sector and achieve a higher grade of quality tenders and minimalise workplace disputes. 

“We hear a lot about industry muscle, but the government has muscle too, through its size, stability and tremendous purchasing power. This is particularly true at the moment, as many governments are investing heavily in infrastructure. Yet with great power comes great responsibility, and [our] governments need to lead by example,” said Consult Australia’s Chief Executive, Megan Motto.

To become a model client the government should foster a culture of collaboration between the public and private sector. This includes simplifying and standardising contracting, limiting liability and inappropriate risk allocation, maintaining dialogue between both parties, properly planning projects, and settling invoices on time. By providing a positive management and strategy framework, the government can create an environment of continuous improvement and innovation.

“It is more important than ever that government and industry work collaboratively together. If not, it can have a devastating impact, particularly on small firms, leading to cashflow issues or simply some of our best and brightest have little choice but to walk away from work they could be doing to make our cities better,” Motto said.

According to the advisory, the government is under increasingly difficult time and budget constraints which are significantly affecting government in terms of efficiency and productivity. By adopting Consult Australia’s policy, the government can ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent effectively. “If governments adopt the Model Client Policy, then ultimately it will be the taxpayer who benefits through the quantity and quality of response to tenders,” concluded Motto.

Related: Consult Australia’s VIC: Digital Built Australia event kicks off 30th of May.