Gavin Male, CEO of NZ Compare, shares his lessons from an unsuccessful attempt at winning a government tender.
I recently took aim at winning a government tender. Although I was unsuccessful, it taught me a lot about engaging with government departments, the Government Electronic Tender Service (GETS) system, how our taxpayer dollars are allocated to private industry, and how to work within a rather complex contract tender system.
I operate a group of websites under the banner of NZ Compare. We provide product and price comparisons across a range of consumer products and services – everything from mobile phones to broadband providers and power companies. I noted the contract for Powerswitch (a website intended to help Kiwi consumers find the best energy deals, switch power providers, and increase retail power competition) was coming due.
This is where I started. Owning a similar website, Power Compare, I could see ways the service could be improved, which led me to contact the Electricity Authority early this year to compete for the tender. I knew that Powerswitch could be doing more for the Kiwi consumer because I operate its competitor.
Part one was to register to become aware of government tenders. The Government Electronic Tender Service (GETS) is a platform used in New Zealand for the tendering process of government contracts. The process involves several stages to ensure transparency, fairness, and competition in awarding contracts to suppliers and although there are stipulations about what needs to go to tender, I believe it is the job of private business to ensure that potential government departments are aware of the services that your business offers.
Anyone can register as a user on GETS and the process is simple. To use GETS you will need to accept the GETS Terms and Conditions of Use, supply some basic information and create a RealMe login. Once registered you add your categories and regions so you will be notified of any opportunities that match your companies’ interests. GETS is an important part of the Government spending process.
You might be asking yourself why I mentioned being ‘unsuccessful’ earlier. Part of the reason is that within the government tender process there are rules and there are guidelines. Sometimes it’s only recommended that a contract goes to tender, and this is where you need to be careful.
Powerswitch, the incumbent for the contract I desired, is owned and operated by Consumer NZ. It faces criticism for its limitations and lack of transparency. It was also lampooned for a recent advertising campaign telling impoverished people to ‘Find Money in Weird Places’.
Improving the power switching market in New Zealand is essential to increasing competition and ensuring fair pricing in the energy market. If more competition and slowing energy price growth for Kiwis is a focus, and the incumbent is failing in its remit, I should have a shot right? Turns out that was a negative.
The contract was extended for a further two years, even though Crown Entity guidelines recommended contracts over $100,000 should go to tender. I was even early to the request because I submitted Official Information Act requests to both the Electricity Authority and MBIE months before the Powerswitch contract was re-awarded to Consumer NZ.
Through other efforts I was able to ensure an open tender for when the Powerswitch contract is up for renewal in 2025. Sadly, that doesn’t give me back the time, effort and investment into trying to win an unwinnable contract. The advice here is if there isn’t a tender, ask why there’s no competition.
If you have a business that could improve the lives of New Zealanders, make sure you sign up to GETS, ask hard questions, evaluate the ROI on tendering, and keep your eyes on the system. You never know when a relevant tender with significant value might come out.
Photo: Gavin Male.