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Focus On Series

How the Ministry of Education Managed the 2008 National School Bus Transport Tender Process

NZ How the Ministry of Education Managed the 2008 National School Bus Transport Tender ProcessAudit Summary

Publication Date:
January 2009

Audit Office:
Office of the Auditor General of New Zealand

Link to full report: 

Audited Entity

  • Ministry of Education

Audit Scope and Objectives

The inquiry examined:

  • how the Ministry prepared its overall procurement strategy and RFP for the 2008 bus tender process;
  • the extent to which the RFP reflected the Ministry’s earlier consultation with stakeholders, where appropriate, and the clarity with which any important changes to the RFP were communicated to stakeholders;
  • the extent to which the RFP rules were applied correctly and consistently by Ministry staff, contractors, and the Tender Evaluation Committee; and
  • the extent to which the Ministry responded promptly and effectively when concerns were expressed about aspects of the 2008 bus tender process.

Audit Criteria

  • The Ministry’s 2008 bus tender process was expected to give effect to the Government’s school transport policy objectives, comply with relevant Ministry policies, and follow good practice for procurement and contract management.
  • The Ministry was expected to apply its RFP rules correctly and consistently.
  • The Ministry was expected to respond promptly and effectively to correspondence about the 2008 bus tender process.

Main Audit Findings

  • The Ministry’s process for preparing its RFP for the 2008 bus tender process was based on thorough and inclusive consultation and, for the most part, the consultation feedback was reflected in the final RFP. Where the consultation feedback was not reflected in the final RFP, the Ministry had justifiable reasons for deciding not to include it.
  • Overall, the Ministry’s 2008 bus tender process met the most significant procurement requirements set out in its own policies, and in the good practice guidance promulgated by the Ministry of Economic Development and by the Office of the Auditor General. Notwithstanding this, there are some minor areas for improvement that the Ministry should address in any future bus tender processes.
  • All three changes to the stated RFP process should have been communicated through the GETS website. The Ministry’s weekly email newsletters were not an adequate substitute for communicating changes to the final RFP. The email newsletters could have been used as a supplementary means of communicating the changes.
  • The Ministry’s quality assurance arrangements did not operate as effectively as they could have. The audit team considers that they need to be enhanced for any subsequent bus tender processes. While a quality assurance system may not identify all errors, a number of the errors and identifiable inconsistencies that occurred in the 2008 bus tender process were, in the audit team’ view, easily avoidable.
  • The Ministry’s approach to gaining assurance about the outcomes of the qualification submissions phase before proceeding with the pricing submissions phase was not robust enough. It appeared that the persistence of some bus operators led to increases in their qualification ratings, rather than any quality assurance process that the Ministry initiated after concerns were expressed about the accuracy of some qualification ratings.
  • The influence of price in the 2008 school bus tender process is not a cause for concern, given the Ministry’s stated value-for-money objectives. There is no suggestion that safety was compromised as a result of the emphasis on price.

Audit Recommendations

  • N/A