Commissioning and contestability in the NSW context

Commissioning and contestability are key tools available to government to get the best possible service delivery outcomes for the people of NSW.

The NSW Government’s vision for commissioning and contestability is to provide:

A whole-of-government strategic approach to the delivery of quality services to sustainably provide improved outcomes for NSW citizens.

The NSW Government Commissioning and Contestability policy

The NSW Government Commissioning and Contestability Policy outlines the Government’s vision, guiding principles and mandate for NSW Government agencies to drive customer-centric service reform and explore ways to create better service outcomes, that puts the customer at the centre of everything we do.

It sets out the requirements for the commissioning and/or contesting of services with a view to designing, funding and enabling services that enhance people’s lives. The Policy is the responsibility of the Commissioning and Contestability Unit within NSW Treasury.

Under the Policy, commissioning is defined as:

An approach to considering the outcomes that need to be achieved, and designing, implementing and managing a system to deliver these outcomes in the most effective way. It leverages the strengths of the public sector and where appropriate, involves private and non-government organisations and individuals to transform outcomes for customers.

The NSW Government will use commissioning to understand customer needs, determine its role in meeting customer needs, and decide how to create, fund, manage, regulate and evaluate ongoing service delivery systems.

Contestability is defined as:

The process of evaluating and benchmarking services against credible alternatives and/or market testing in order to drive productivity, learning and improvement.

Commissioning and contestability enable government to adopt new models and approaches that result in more efficient and effective public services.

Application of the policy

The Policy applies to all NSW Government agencies, and is to be used in the following situations:

  • in developing new service delivery policies and proposals, or when service delivery policies undergo significant review
  • when undertaking portfolio or service delivery reviews
  • where commissioning and contesting services impact annual and mid-year budget submissions
  • when undertaking strategic planning and whole-of-agency and/or cross-agency organisational redesign
  • prior to executing major contracts that bind Government for long contract periods, to ensure they are as contestable as possible
  • in determining service continuity arrangements prior to the end of major contracts, particularly when the contract and industry is affected by innovation e.g. technology.

NSW Government Commissioning and Contestability Practice Guide

The Commissioning Compass
The Commissioning Compass

The Policy is supported by a NSW Government Commissioning and Contestability Practice Guide that has been developed in consultation with Government agencies and advisors, as a body of knowledge to support practitioners.

It is an evolving document that will be updated to reflect current need and practice.

The Practice Guide outlines the six primary steps in the commissioning process:

  1. defining outcomes
  2. designing
  3. testing
  4. implementing
  5. managing
  6. evaluating a commissioning system.

It sets out the objectives and considerations for each step in the life cycle.