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​​Developing a social services procurement plan

​What you need to do before going out to the provider community and selecting a provider.

Developing plans for any procurement

Detailed information on developing a plan for any procurement is in the Guide to procurement - Plan section of our website.


You'll find out how to:

  • initiate the project
  • identify your needs and analyse the provider community
  • specify your requirements
  • plan your sourcing approach and evaluation criteria
  • develop a good procurement plan.

Extra information specific to social services procurements is below.

For social services procurements, you should also:

Plan how to evaluate services

Plan how the effectiveness of services will be evaluated, and how outcomes as well as outputs will be measured.

Evaluation may look at different things, including:

  • how, and how well, an initiative has been delivered (process evaluation)
  • the extent to which the initiative contributed to the achievement of target outcomes and unintended outcomes (outcome, or impact evaluation)
  • value for money, cost-effectiveness, or cost-benefit (economic evaluation).

Evaluation is not performance measurement, but it uses performance data. While measures change over time, evaluation tells us why or why not change has occurred. Evaluation tells us about the value of the change and whether it is attributable to the initiative.

The evaluation can be done by the provider or you can commission an evaluation. The choice will depend on the provider’s ability to carry out or commission an evaluation. Consider how the evaluation will be funded and how to ensure it is independent. If it is not included in the cost of services, it may not happen.

Talk to your internal research and evaluation team, if you have one.

It's also useful to talk to providers when you're developing the specification and performance measure for a service, especially those that deal with vulnerable clients.

How to measure outcomes and outputs

Check if the Rules apply

The Government Procurement Rules help to shape good procurement practice. If your agency is mandated to use them, they apply to all projects worth more than $100,000 (or construction projects worth more than $9 million).

Sometimes agencies can opt out of some of the Government Procurement Rules for certain procurements - check Rule 12.

For the social sector, the most relevant opt-outs are:

  • conditional grants
  • purchases between government agencies
  • the purchase of certain types of health, education and welfare services.

Check definitions in the Rules and consider whether your services are similar and provided to New Zealanders to achieve social objectives.


Even if an opt-out provision applies under Rule 12, many of the other Rules still apply.

Check your funding options

Government agencies have several funding options to put in place with social service providers. These include:

  • conditional or unconditional grants to help to develop a provider's capacity or pay for specified one-off projects
  • contracts for the provision of services
  • payment for results or outcomes - this is less commonly used and can be tricky to manage.

Funding options

Understand the provider community

The size and nature of providers can vary greatly in the social sector - it's important to spend time to understand your specific provider community before trying to source a provider.

It's often worth speaking to providers directly to help figure out the best approach for your requirements.

Research the provider community

Measure outcomes

Performance measures need to reflect how much you need (quantity), how well they need to be done (quality), and the desired client outcomes (this is the most important aspect). Using the Results Based Accountability™ (RBA) framework, client outcomes might include:

  • skills or knowledge change (eg the client now has a new range of parenting skills)
  • attitude or opinion change (eg the client no longer wants to use drugs)
  • behaviour change (eg the client is now attending school)
  • circumstance change (eg the client is now in housing).

RBA is an outcomes management framework that government agencies and providers can use to identify and work towards achieving results and outcomes for communities, whānau and clients. While not the only outcomes framework, RBA is currently the most widely used in government and the social sector.

How to measure outcomes and outputs

Add value to the commissioning process

‘Procurement’ means all aspects of acquiring and delivering services. Procurement begins with identifying the need and finishes when the contract ends, and for social services, is often part of a wider commissioning process.

Commissioning is a broader concept than procurement - it involves the whole cycle, from identifying the policy issue, to considering the range of possible solutions and then putting the selected option in place.

Although commissioning doesn't always lead to procurement of services, procurement knowledge can often add value to the process, especially when it's considered early. Sharing your knowledge with policy makers and service designers early in the commissioning process can help to achieve improved outcomes and better value for money.