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EY secures AU$10.7M to build Australia digital ID register after limited tender

EY secures AU$10.7M to build Australia digital ID register after limited tender
 

EY, a big four consulting firm, has won a $10.7 million Australian (US$6.9 million) contract to build a digital ID register that will act as the foundation for Australian Government’s Digital ID System (AGDIS). The contract was awarded under a “select sourcing” tender process that was initiated at the end of 2023, according to Innovation Aus.

EY was awarded the contract, and the ACCC declined to reveal how many firms bid.

The firm is now tasked with developing a platform that will include a register of accredited entities, portals for participants and staff, and an API for digital ID management.

The register is scheduled to be delivered at the end of the year, though the government wants to start the expansion of digital identity in July at the earliest.

At the end of November, 2023, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) issued a limited tender to build the platform, inviting only 5-10 vendors to submit a request, a decision criticized by smaller, local companies that were denied the opportunity to even be considered.

“The ACCC has demonstrated behaviors against their own mandate of providing market competition,” said Courtenay Hollis, the chief executive and co-founder of Imminently, a Canberra IT services and consulting firm. “This procurement approach continues to undermine the capabilities of Australian providers in contributing to strategic government initiatives.”

“I’m constantly hearing from local companies who’ve developed impressive new capabilities they believe could be utilized by the government,” said Independent Senator David Pocock, who believes the current procurement system overlooks Australian companies. “Unless they have existing relationships within the public service, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be asked to bid in a select tender process,” he said to Innovation Aus.

Local companies need to be given the chance to “prove themselves as worthy competitors, he said. “There is a strong case for wholesale reform of government procurement processes to create more opportunities for high-skill, high-capability sovereign Australian companies.”

Government procurement opportunities total over $70 billion a year, said Pocock, who managed to secure a Senate inquiry into developing the Australian tech sector through government procurement, among other things.

The digital ID project, which has already cost $700 million, will have a phased rollout, beginning with government services before eventually reaching the private sector, another decision in the scheme that received criticism.

Large consultancies like EY have faced scrutiny over the last year after a tax leak scandal involving another big four firm, PwC. The entity shared confidential government information to help its clients avoid taxes. Last year, one of EY’s partners was accused of promoting tax exploitation schemes.

When asked about how it will gain additional oversight over EY, a ACCC spokesperson insisted that “the ACCC have contract management processes in place to ensure that supplier performance is satisfactory, stakeholders are well informed, and all contract requirements are met, thereby ensuring that the contract delivers the anticipated value for money.”

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