Our concerns about the NSW Government’s parking app

NEWSFLASH – You would expect that there would be a tender process, or procurement process to award such a contract for a NSW Government app

 

The idea behind the NSW State Government’s Park-N-Pay app, to enable NSW based consumers to find and pay for parking spots via their mobile phone and to enable local governments to improve enforcement efficiency, might well be a great initiative. However the contract to provide a payment gateway for the app (needed to support credit card payments via the app) and to provide the data needed to enable consumers to find parking spots and provide local governments with that improved enforcement has been awarded without a tendering process. You would expect that there would be a tender process, or procurement process to award such a contract for a NSW Government app. There was not.

 

The NSW Government’s own Procurement Policy Framework version 4 dated July 2015 sets out the mandatory requirements that must be followed by all NSW Government agencies. As the Framework sets out:

 

“A key objective of the NSW Government is to improve procurement outcomes through enhanced competition, as well as facilitating access to government procurement business by the private sector, especially SMEs and regional based enterprises. Government procurement that improves competition within markets leads to greater efficiency and encourages innovation within those markets. Greater efficiency produces tangible outcomes such as lower prices, improved quality in products, greater innovation and improved sustainability of markets.”

 

At a national level, Government agencies must abide by the Commonwealth Procurement Rules 2019. These Rules apply to procurement carried out by officials in Commonwealth agencies and bodies and states that “value for money is the core rule of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules as it is critical to ensuring that public resources are used in the most efficient, effective, ethical and economic manner”. According to the Rules, value for money can be enhanced by: “encouraging competition” which is a key element in the Australian Government’s procurement framework.

 

As if the lack of competition for the award of the contract, isn’t bad enough, the contractor appointed by the NSW Government happens to be the supplier of parking devices in direct competition with the other providers of parking (devices) hardware and software, all of whom are being asked to integrate with the NSW Government app. So, that contractor has been handed an unfair advantage when tendering to supply parking devices to local governments in NSW.

 

Why? Unless the parking app is integrated into enforcement applications used by local government for its ON-street parking equipment, it is pretty much useless. Without integration, all the app provides is another means of payment. However, local governments know that if they want to offer their consumers the State Government’s own app, no other suppliers in the device or enforcement space, will be willing to integrate the data from their systems with the app, knowing full well that the data will be available to a competitor. So where local governments want to offer the NSW Government’s mandated app, they will only be able to use hardware supplied by the contractor! Local governments that choose to use other parking (devices) hardware and software solutions supplied by competitors cannot get the benefit of integration with their infrastructure or enforcement solution.

 

So the choice of contractor for NSW State Government’s Park-N-Pay app will severely negatively impact on local governments’ ability to choose between parking providers.

 

So, what is so special about the contractor, versus the rest of parking industry that it competes with? How was it selected? What advantage do local governments gain by adopting the NSW Government Park-N-Pay app over the parking apps available from other suppliers which might be better and cheaper? What extra costs do local councils (and thus ratepayers and drivers) end up paying for this solution?

 

In our view, the NSW Government’s decision to award the contract to a participant in the NSW parking space market has decimated competition in that market and handed the contractor an unfair advantage over all other suppliers in that market. The NSW Park-N-Pay app should not create a walled garden favouring one market participant. It should be an open platform that allows integration with all of the parking data needed to best enable all NSW consumers and local governments to enjoy the benefits the app potentially provides; ensures the best value for money for all stakeholders and preserves for users the benefit of a choice of parking apps. Sadly, this is not the case.

 

We call on the NSW Government to even the playing field in the parking device space by taking back the contract for payment gateway for the Park-N-Pay app. If the NSW Government doesn’t want to do it itself, it should award the contract to a provider that is independent from the suppliers of the parking devices in NSW. That way all parking device suppliers will have the confidence to integrate the data from their systems with the app, which will benefit all of the participants in the NSW parking market.