Earlier this month Central Australian Affordable Housing lost its contract from the Northern Territory Government to provide tenancy services on the Alice Springs town camps.
We lost this contract through a business procurement process which settled on ‘price’ as the key determinant for value. CAAH had been delivering tenancy management services to the Alice Springs Town Camps for five years.
We cannot criticise the procurement process, however we would like to ask, “what is the value of price when considering social benefits?"
We argue that in this instance a business procurement process has undermined the opportunity for social benefit, social outcomes and social value.
We lost this contract through a business procurement process which settled on ‘price’ as the key determinant for value.
In its tender bid CAAH was promoting a model of service delivery that would sustain tenancies, reduce property damage, prevent evictions, avoid homelessness and increase social cohesion. These aims are all important but largely unmeasurable outcomes in a price based tender environment. However, the value to the town campers and by default to the NT Government would have been enormous.
CAAH’s current discomfort could have been minimised if another not for profit with a social mission and cultural experience had been successful in winning the tender. However, handing the service to a ‘for profit’ business with no experience on the town camps has left us astonished and bewildered.
Over the last five years CAAH has employed many Aboriginal people. They have added significant value and knowledge to our organisation. Their abilities and skills in working on the Town Camps has helped CAAH address complex social issues and establish good working relationships with the residents. The work on the Town Camps is not simple work. It cannot be boxed into little business units. Our work involves complex decision making, problem solving, advocacy, mediation and relationship building every day. We have been very proud of our work.
I hope in the near future the Northern Territory Government can reconsider its procurement process for social service provision, and consider the important role of social value in determining social tenders.
If you don’t measure services in social outcomes then the price in the years to come becomes higher and higher. More people will lose out on stable accommodation, linkages to the community, economic participation and healthy communities and homes.
Sally Langton is the CEO of the Central Australian Affordable Housing Company.