Defence’s efforts in supporting contractors and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis have been recognised with the department winning its second consecutive Gold Award in the Commonwealth Procurement Awards for Excellence.

The award was presented at a ceremony at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, in December.

It promotes the important role procurement plays in delivering services and outcomes for government, citizens and the business community.

Defence’s winning entry was nominated in the Engaging with Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) category. 

The judging panel praised Defence for supporting SMEs and Indigenous businesses in the last financial year, especially during the height of COVID-19 when restrictions were imposed on businesses and the community.

In the 2019-20 financial year, Defence engaged 1807 SMEs with an expenditure of more than $819m.

First Assistant Secretary Service Delivery Division Monique Hamilton accepted the award on behalf of Defence.

“I am proud of the responsiveness, agility and flexibility demonstrated by Defence during COVID-19,” Mrs Hamilton said.

We are an enormous organisation, but we have, and continue to, respond and move quickly when confronted by a significant crisis.

When governments across Australia began implementing restrictions in March last year, Defence services also were impacted.

Dining halls, gyms and recreational facilities closed, with the majority of these services being delivered by contractor staff. 

Defence advised all base services contractors that payments for all services would continue, and they were not to stand down displaced staff.

Instead, the contractors were asked to redeploy affected staff across the Defence Estate. 

This strategy provided displaced contracted staff with job security, without placing additional stress on the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program. 

“In order to support the affected small businesses and Indigenous businesses, Defence worked with our base services contractors to implement a range of measures and mechanisms,” Mrs Hamilton said.

“We implemented an expedited maintenance program. 

“Small, lower-priority works that would not normally have been completed were grouped into manageable packages and offered to small, and often local, businesses. 

“Examples included painting, carpet replacement, electrical work and the refurbishment of live-in-accommodation. 

“Given the size of the Defence Estate, Defence personnel at each base were encouraged to identify sustainment and remediation works and seek out local businesses that would benefit from being awarded these works. 

“Expedited payment arrangements were put in place with all Defence’s contractors to enable the flow-through of payments to subcontractors working on the Defence Estate. 

“The intent was that subcontractors would be paid within 48 hours of an invoice being received.”

Mrs Hamilton said it was satisfying to receive letters from small businesses thanking Defence for its support during the pandemic.