• Guidance on Acting as References/Reference Sites for Government Contractors - May 2008

    Purpose: To provide guidance to agencies acting as references for suppliers

    The Western Australian Government has a role to play in the ongoing development of Western Australian industry.  Amongst other initiatives, agencies may perform this role by acting as references for companies or individuals with whom the Government does business.

    Historically, there has been some reluctance or uncertainty amongst agencies about acting as a reference for suppliers. This issue has arisen again, specifically in relation to the local Information Communications Technology (ICT) industry. Industry representatives have submitted to Government that if agencies agree to act as references for local suppliers, then local suppliers are likely to be more successful in obtaining additional business, particularly in other markets, which in turn will help foster a robust and technologically evolving local industry.

    Government is recognised as an important buyer and references from agencies can be of considerable value to a supplier. As a general principle, agreeing to provide a reference is acceptable practice and is supported where the contractual relationship has been of sufficient substance.

    Agencies should carefully consider when to give references and the content of such references. When asked to provide a reference, agencies should advise the supplier of the substance of the information the agency is likely to provide at the time the supplier seeks to include the agency as a referee. This allows the supplier to make a decision as to whether to proceed with that agency as a reference.

    Agencies should only give references to those suppliers:

    • with whom the agency had, or has, a contract;
    • who were chosen as a result of a competitive procurement process; and
    • who have sought consent from the relevant agency prior to nominating that agency as a reference site.

    When giving references, agencies must ensure that the statement provided:

    • is factual and accurate and accords with any performance feedback given to the supplier;
    • reflects the extent of the agency’s usage of the supplied product or service, the length of use of the product or service and the degree to which it met or failed to meet the contract requirement;
    • is not represented as an individual testimonial, carrying the imprimatur of government or the personal opinion of its employees; and
    • does not bring the State or Government into disrepute.

    Where an agency gives its consent to act as a reference, and later wishes to withdraw its consent, the agency should do so by giving written notice to the supplier.

    Please note that the information provided above relates specifically to references given by an agency to a third party for the purposes of commenting on a supplier’s performance against a specific contract. Generally this will be the case where a supplier nominates an agency as a reference in a tender document for other work, and the party who released the tender is seeking information relating to the supplier’s past performance for the purposes of evaluating the supplier’s tender. The information provided above does not relate to providing a published ‘endorsement’ of a supplier. In accordance with the Request Conditions and General Conditions of Contract, an agency may give its written consent to a supplier to enable the supplier to publicise a reference provided by an agency. Where an agency gives its consent it should also stipulate that the supplier is to provide the agency with a draft of the publication prior to release.

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    Published date: 27 May 2008