Working with Government

Doing good work with interesting people, achieving positive results

Working with Government

When planning to work with governments at all levels, there are several aspects that are crucial to remember.

Government is not spending their money. They are spending taxpayers money (yours, mine, everybody’s). This means they have rules and systems to ensure this is done fairly and without bias, which leads to frustrating processes and systems for commercial organisations to deal with. These systems and processes are rarely perfect and so are a source of frustration. Those on the government side are often just as frustrated as those on the commercial side.

Governments have to spend money when they have it. If there is money in the budget for a specific purpose this year, it may not be there next year. The budget cycle and processes mean that if there is $10,000 for a new set of road signs next year, that money needs to be spent on road signs next year. This can lead to very long processes that can lead to commercial stress if input prices (wages, supplies, overheads) change. It can also lead to very short time frames if they have money left at the end of the year. These situations often cause frustration for commercial organisations.

Governments respond to election cycles. Government at all levels will change their behaviour depending on how far away the next election is. Soon after an election, they will be planning how to fulfil their election commitments while also doing the normal business of government. Between elections, they will want to spend the money as available to achieve the goals set. Before an election, they will sometimes what to spend money to make them more popular, or they might want to save money to have it available for election promises. All of this can easily cause confusion and stress for commercial organisations.

Governments usually pay on time. Politicians have heard the concerns of small business about long payment terms and the impact this can have. Governments can usually be relied on to make payments when they are due. As long as the commercial organisation has done the work and provided the necessary evidence, they will be paid.

Governments use template contracts. Where possible governments will use templates for their dealings with commercial organisations. These template contracts are often long and have a lot of detail. This is because they capture the lessons when things have gone wrong. These templates do not usually change very much. Once a commercial organization is used to them, they know what they are getting into.