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Probity & Governance – Why all the Fuss?

By John Carey

24th August 2018

Probity is widely, and rightfully, regarded as a very important part of any significant procurement process at a local government level.

Most local government officers are well aware of the need for compliance with the Local Government Act and Regulations in significant procurement processes. Observing probity requirements is a significant part of that. A bit like an insurance policy: you hope not to have to explain or become accountable for decisions made in a procurement process, but it’s nice to have when you need to. Some local governments in Queensland have recently discovered, to their cost, what happens when you cannot justify or explain significant procurement decisions.

Probity is important to local governments because they frequently receive public money, so are accountable for it and subject to audit and scrutiny. Properly observed and recorded probity processes gives Commonwealth and State funding bodies assurance that Local Governments can be trusted to avoid conflicts of interest and corrupt practices.  It is also important for the broader community to share that level of trust.

There is no standard list of probity principles that must be observed in a procurement process, however the following is a good guide:


All people considering tendering for Council procurement processes must have confidence that the process will be conducted fairly and impartially and that Council officers conducting the process are able to put aside their personal interest (if any) when considering a tender.


Accountability and transparency are related concepts.  Accountability involves a Council being able to demonstrate and justify the use of public resources, and take responsibility for past and expected performance.  This involves keeping good records that leave a clear audit trail.


The physical and electronic security of documents obtained by Councils in the procurement process must be ensured.  Any lack of confidence in that security may result in a challenge.


A conflict of interest arises if a member of the procurement team has an affiliation or interest that may prejudice or be seen to prejudice his or her impartiality.  The perception of conflict can be as damaging as an actual conflict.

wilson/ryan/grose Lawyers has significant experience advising on and overseeing procurement processes and providing probity and governance advice to local Councils throughout Queensland.  For further queries please contact John Carey of our office.

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