How might DFAT contracting changes affect designs?

By Tamara Haig
4 min. read

Doing business with DFAT – invitation to a Supplier Engagement Event (credit: DFAT)


The DFAT procurement landscape is changing. This is equally true for the design partners working with DFAT as it is for DFAT staff themselves designing initiatives. What impact might we see – and are we already seeing – on designs?

Here are three key changes we’ve seen slated to take effect/are emerging by year end…

Firstly, the end of DFAT Aid Advisory Services (AAS) Panel listings (original link here).

Really – AAS Panels will conclude by year end? Yes. Check in with CVB on the latest, but in short, after six years, these AAS Panel listings (130+ organisations and 250+ individuals) across 17 categories including in Design, M&E (the successor to AusAID’s long standing Period Offer arrangements, and comparable to EU/ DFID Framework Agreements) will not be extended beyond December 2018.

Do you need to develop a design / IDD and confused about your options? Key ones look like: 1. Go direct to experts of your choice for quotes (see Register suggestion below, too) 2. Seek indigenous provider 3. Issue a Services Order or Tasking Note via existing Facility/similar and/or 4. Advertise via the proposed Online Aid Portal (see below).

Secondly, a new Online Aid Portal (see more here).

DFAT is proposing a portal from November (currently in testing) that is not dissimilar to the Opportunities and Jobs function of the previously DFAT-funded ADG website (‘discontinued’ by DFAT in 2012). It will list opportunities by at least major DFAT contractors and perhaps (but likely only voluntarily (TBC)) by DFAT staff direct, too.

Will more opportunities to design DFAT initiatives be listed publicly? Let’s hope so, or we may find that DFAT staff instead choose to add this work into existing DFAT-funded Facilities. Let’s hope the independence of designs are not compromised by facility-engaged teams.

Thirdly, a re-emergence of larger facilities, registers, TAGs

Logic might suggest that in a tight budget environment for aid and development, we would see smaller value, bilateral, direct contracts around fit for purpose project-type initiatives being designed. However, we think we’re seeing another trend re-emerging: the return (or doubling-down) to larger facility arrangements. To DFAT staff, facilities likely seem comparably simpler contracting mechanisms for initiatives and designs – DFAT Posts such as Manila use a facility-type arrangement for adviser recruitment.

Yet there are useful alternative – also in response to closing Panel arrangements – where we have seen DFAT sections make a case for stand-alone registers that list expertise available (including design expertise), case in point: the recent MSD register (see here). Other DFAT sections could follow suit. Another avenue is the resurgence of Technical Advisory Group (TAG) style design and M&E strategic oversight of larger initiatives (such as for the PNG Governance QTAG here).

Our take on this?

DFAT procurement and contracting as with other government departments is cyclical in nature (though always in line with Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines). The shift away from long-held (15+ year) Period Offer and Panel Arrangements by DFAT (or AusAID before this) is significant though. It will create opportunities but also short to medium-term uncertainty – at minimum, it needs to be understood as a transition or period of change for DFAT staff in how they approach design of development initiatives.

Our tips – to designers and DFAT staff?

To designers out there, keep an eye on DFAT’s site for Registers and other opportunities that may emerge in the vacuum of AAS Panels and/or the transition from these. Also scan the DFAT popular Procurement page (regularly updated, see here) in addition to the new Aid Portal (when it comes online).

To DFAT staff needing to design an IDD/re-scope an existing initiative, consider checking in with CVB on your options including the merits of a Register/similar for your needs (this could also enable you to go direct to experts of your choice for quotes), as well as advertising your design needs on the new Aid Portal (upcoming).


A note from DevDAS: Do you need to develop a DFAT Investment Design Document? Or do you need to re-scope an existing initiative? Please get in touch.

Tamara Haig

Tamara Haig is CEO and Principal of DevDAS. She has 15 years experience across 12 countries in the Indo-Pacific region for clients including DFAT, WBG, private sector and NGOs. She has designed, worked on or managed 80+ aid initiatives and is on several donor panels (for design, gender and ICT). She speaks English and Melanesian Pidgin.

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