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I am sure the successful recruitment agency winners of the recently announced Federal Health Department’s temp/contract panel must be delighted with their win.

The whole process began in the middle of August last year when the Department called for tender submissions to provide temp and contract recruitment services to the head office in Canberra and regional offices in Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin and Alice Springs.

As industry news service, ShortList , quoting from the tender documents, reported at the time,

“This panel will be non-exclusive. Nothing in its establishment precludes the [client] from procuring the same services through another procurement process………… no volume of work is guaranteed to any one supplier.”

The tender closed on 15 September, 2010. Fifty nine weeks  later an announcement about the successful bidders was made (WTF were they doing all that time? Reading two submission per week?). What a thrill it must have been for the winners to have to wait for so long and find out that they were sharing the spoils with, wait for it ………26 other recruitment agencies!

Wow. A non-exclusive panel, no guarantee of any  work and 26 other ‘winners’.

And we only had to wait for five seasons to find this out.

Where do I sign up for more of these?

So let me make sure I’m interpreting this correctly; many hundreds of (cumulative) hours of recruitment agency time was invested to produce documents that were then reviewed for many hundreds (thousands?) of hours by (tens of?) public servants to make a decision about which 27 agencies would compete for work that could be given out to any other recruiter at any other time, no reasons required.

And this is  what we pay our taxes for?

What a joke.

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Karen Paxton

Ross – One of the reasons my company has never gone for the panel arrangements is exactly that reason. We have some 265+ Recruitment Agreements with government departments (federal and state), statutory authorities, not-for-profit organisations, industry associations, the education sector as well as the private sector – gained over the past 11 years in Canberra. Each time I think I might want to go for government tenders, that clause is what stops me. Notwithstanding that, if you don't go for them, the APS officers won't use you, unless as a "last resort". Many times we've been told "we'd would love to use you, but you're not on the panel". It doesn't matter if you are "the specialist" recruitment firm in your particular industry, with all the accolades of a top performer and you are the one that clients and other candidates alike will send all their staff, colleagues, mates and friends to, to register. It is an "out" organisations give themselves, but they do tend to use the register first. What you (as a non-panelist) end up with are the "hard to fill" roles after the bigger agencies have had their go at them. We've ended up filling many of those. It would just be nice if they came to you first – especially when you have a track record with them of filling those roles. You are damned if you do, damned if you don't, in the end. What I find interesting is that they lock themselves out of working with new emerging firms (the small and micros that 10% of their business is meant to support), working with specialists who also (in their early phases of business particularly) can't dedicate the time to going for every tender especially when their area of specialisation is spread across every department and agency but not in large enough numbers to justify the time going for every panel arrangement. It is an interesting approach and I wonder if it really brings the perceived benefits. I doubt any downside is seen. Still, it is the game in (this) town.

Ross Clennett

Thanks for your insight, Karen. You just confirm what a huge productivity drain this whole pointless exercise is. Surely the forces of the free market are better than such a ludicrous waste of time government PSAs turn out to be.


Ah, welcome to the unusual world of our Commonwealth Government procuring recruitment services. From outside of Canberra looking in, this is completely ludicrous. From recruiting in Canberra for around 10 years, it is certainly unusual but far from out of the ordinary.

Some additional 'highlights' were:
– the Department broke up the $/hr, scribing and non-ongoing contract services. Not all panel members got the parts they bid for.
– they set their own prices, and did not use those proposed. There was no option to negotiate these prices or what services we were 'offered' to provide, and nobody available you could talk this through with (just an anonymous email address).

However, the redeeming feature is the procurement is like a colander. Once on the panel, you can find a way to achieve sound commercial rates. If you did not get on, this option does not exist.

Now doesn't that make you feel even better about those tax dollars?

My response to Karen would be you have to be 'in it to win it' with these tenders. Don't apply commonsensse commercial thinking to Government procuring recruitment services – it is an exercise in futility. It is a different world with different needs. What makes sense to us is not their reality. But once you are in, have room to move and have those strong relationships they can be hugely profitable clients.

I hope you understand why I won't put my name to this.

John Wilson

Great comment Ross. Maybe the RCSA can lobby the Federal Government to set some rules around tender times, numbers and process to remove waisted time and money on both sides.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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