Government procurement must be transparent, fair and ethical. This helps ensure there is confidence in government processes. Plan for probity early in the process and make sure it is part of every step of the procurement.
Principles of probity
Probity means integrity, fairness and honesty. This is shown by:
- transparency of actions
- managing conflicts of interest, whether actual or perceived
Buyers and suppliers must deal with each other on the basis of mutual trust and respect. This is important to achieve the goal of value for money.
How to apply probity
Probity should be part of every aspect of every procurement activity.
To achieve an ethical and transparent approach, this means:
- you act with integrity and impartiality
- you ensure market equality by applying a suitable level of competition to the procurement activity
- processes are consistent, transparent and auditable
- ensuring suppliers’ information remains secure and confidential
- you identify and manage conflicts of interest
- you assign appropriate capability to elements of the procurement process
- you engage a probity practitioner if the procurement is complex
Plan for probity
You must plan for probity in the process. More stringent requirements may apply to high-value or complex procurements.
For goods and services, speak to your procurement governance unit about the thresholds that apply.
For construction procurement of more than $10 million you must develop a probity plan.
Read more about the requirements and thresholds in directions and instructions 4.1 and 4.2
Probity in practice
Act with integrity and impartiality
You show integrity by:
- being honest, open and transparent in your dealings
- being responsible in the way you use your powers
- addressing improper conduct
- managing any real or perceived conflict of interest
- striving to earn and sustain a high level of public trust
You show impartiality by:
- making decisions and providing advice based on merit rather than bias, unpredictability, favouritism or self-interest
- acting fairly by considering all relevant facts and criteria
Follow other government laws and frameworks
Check what you need to do to follow other government laws and frameworks:
- Public Administration Act 2004
- Freedom of Information Act 1982
- Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees
- Victorian Public Sector Commission (VPSC) Ethics Framework
- VPSC Conflict of Interest Policy Framework
- VPSC Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Policy Framework
- Commonwealth legislation and relevant trade agreements.
Ensure market equality
- treat all potential suppliers (existing and potential) fairly and equally
- you must provide all suppliers with the same information
- Respond to suppliers’ questions in similar time frames
- give each supplier fair access to visit sites
Follow auditable, accountable processes
It’s important your procurement and contract management follows the record-keeping requirements of your organisation. Make sure you store all records and documents in accordance with those requirements regardless of whether they’re in paper or electronic form.
Maintain consistent and transparent processes
- apply transparency and fairness throughout the procurement process
- keep records throughout the process, with enough information for independent review
- make sure any change or variation to the process or scope doesn’t unfairly preference any bidder and minimises extra costs
Keep supplier information secure and confidential
Set up procurement processes to make sure information from suppliers stays confidential. This is very important for commercially-sensitive information and intellectual property.
Identify and resolve conflicts of interest
Set up procedures and processes to identify and address conflicts of interest. These may be actual conflicts of interest, or perceived conflicts of interest.
Record all action taken to address them.
If you are buying goods or services, we encourage you to should use the templates.
Assign the right capability to parts of the procurement process
Align procurement processes with capability. Ensure staff and systems match each part of the procurement process.
Engage a probity practitioner
If your procurement is a complex one, you may need probity oversight.
Probity practitioners are:
- independent of the process
- objective and impartial
They will also have no conflicts of interest, and hold the highest ethical standards. There are two roles in which a probity practitioner may be engaged.
A probity auditor:
- is entirely independent
- can observe and report on how the procurement follows regulations, frameworks and standards
- attends any meeting they feel is necessary to gather evidence on the probity of the process
A probity adviser:
- is an integral part of the procurement team
- answers to the project manager
- can provide advice and guidance on how best to achieve standards
- can assist in reaching that standard if problems arise
- attends all project meetings
Benefits of engaging a probity practitioner
A probity practitioner can:
- pre-empt possible probity issues
- minimise complaints
- provide an independent point of view
- add to accountability and transparency of the process
- ensure decisions are documented and defensible
- identify possible issues early
- provide advice on how to respond to issues
Assessing unsolicited proposals
To assess unsolicited proposals for goods and services, download the Guide.