Gillian Marks, Former General Counsel of Defence Materiel Organisation, Australia
Gillian Marks, former General Counsel Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) has had substantial experience in implementing public sector reform in her career. When it came to DMO and defence procurement, she had raised the bar to implement DMO’s CEO, Dr Stephen Gumley’s reforms.
Gillian Marks worked in the DMO from November 2004 to October 2008. During her tenure, she sought and obtained approval for a number of reforms primarily to improve DMO’s beleagued procurement and contract management “systems”. Reforms included a blueprint for providing professional and recognized training courses for procurement and contract officers.
“This will provide a real career path for people performing procurement and contract management tasks at all levels of responsibility. It provides them with the professional recognition they deserve” remarked Ms Marks.
Other reforms introduced by Gillian Marks included a feasibility study for a “whole of life” contract management system that keeps safe custody and updated electronic copies of Defence contracts, contract variations and other key information to assist Defence’s ability to contract manage, resolve disputes and pursue its legal rights. “With the current system, Defence’s legal advisers cannot be confident that the version of the contract they are advising on is up to date and accurate”.
This is not best practice especially where contract terms can be for ten or more years and subject to many variations. In this context, Gillian Marks said that “change is the one certainty when it comes to lengthy contracts and their success depends on excellent relationship and contract management”.
One of the most significant reforms led by the former General Counsel, DMO was the Procurement Improvement Program approved by Dr Gumley and endorsed by DMO’s Advisory Board. Some of the key objectives of the Procurement Improvement Program included stronger controls over schedule delivery, contract change and cost management as well as improved controls over poor bidding practices and probity management.
Gillian Marks’ reforms were extremely ambitious for an organization such as Defence – one industry player referred to it as “a herculean task”. “From my observation of the past, the words “change” and “Defence” in the same sentence is an oxymoron, we shall have to wait and see what happens”.
At the heart of these reforms is real accountability, transparency and performance management by both the organization and individual personnel. The proof in the pudding will be if all DMO executive and personnel get on board – otherwise Dr Gumley’s reform agenda and Defence Values are nothing more than rhetoric.