Top AusAID contractors: A primer

Former Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Bob McMUllan opens the Australian Agency for International Development warehouse in Brisbane. Photo by: ©HK Logistics

The Australian aid market is undergoing a transition. Following an independent review of Australia’s foreign assistance, AusAID promises new ways of doing business, including how it contracts out technical assistance projects.

Though it pledges to limit private contracting, AusAID intends to continue tapping them to deliver aid in recipient countries, particularly “in circumstances where the necessary expertise does not exist in-house and where contractors represent the most reasonable and cost-effective choice.” It also plans to use private sector expertise during the early stages of policy development and program design.

Companies that have won AusAID procurements in the past will likely continue to have an edge in the competition for upcoming contracts. The reform so far only indicates a narrowing of opportunities for contractors, but AusAID has the same, old advice for those that wish to do business with the agency, including knowing the aid program, targeting specific projects and opportunities, and networking with AusAID officials and other contractors.

Networking with prime contractors is particularly important for companies seeking subcontracts within AusAID projects. An AusAID official earlier told Devex that if an activity is designed as a program or a facility, “subcontracting is almost always involved.”

Here are the top AusAID-funded private contractors, starting with the most successful one, based on data from AusTender, the Australian government’s centralized portal on published business opportunities, both planned and awarded. The data cover the total amount of current contracts valued at or above AU$100,000 ($108,925) each at the end of 2010. This includes contracts signed in 2010 as well as contracts that had not been fully performed by Dec. 31 that same year.

Coffey International Development

Founded: 1959 (Coffey as a group)Group executive: Glen SimpsonHeadquarters: Canberra, AustraliaAusAID funding: AU$593.7 million Other donor clients: Asian Development Bank, European Union, Islamic Development Bank, U.K. Department for International Development, U.S. Agency for International Development, World Bank Focus areas: economic growth; human development; environment and natural resources; governance and public sector management; security and justice; stabilization and recovery

Coffey International Development uses two frameworks to guide its mobilization and coordination of technical expertise to meet short-term and immediate specialist demands of its clients. The Governance and Social Development Framework renders research, training and consultancy services to support planning, implementation and evaluation of projects in the areas of governance, conflict, and social development. Through the Economist and Private Sector Development Services, Coffey can deploy specialists within seven days to provide technical advice on economic and private sector development initiatives around the globe. The company has more than 1,500 development professionals in its roster.

GRM International

Founded: 1968Managing director: Kim BredhauerHeadquarters: Brisbane, AustraliaAusAID funding: AU$559.2 millionOther donor clients: African Development Bank, ADB, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, DfID, United Nations Office for Project Services, World BankFocus areas: education; health; governance; law and justice; finance and economic development; policy and public sector reform; agriculture; livestock and fisheries; environment and natural resources; infrastructure

GRM has managed more than 700 projects in more than 120 countries worldwide. Aside from AusAID, it has worked with the European Union as manager of framework contracts, which call for the company to furnish short-term specialist services on an “as required basis.” It has more than 1,200 experts. GRM’s managing director, Kim Bredhauer, is a member of Australia’s Aid Advisory Council, a body chaired by the Australian foreign minister that provides independent expert views on the delivery of the country’s foreign assistance.

Cardno Emerging Markets

Founded: 2010Managing director: Andrew BuckleyHeadquarters: Brisbane, AustraliaAusAID funding: AU$500 millionOther donor clients: EU, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Millennium Challenge Corp., DfID, USAID, World Bank Focus areas: physical and social infrastructure

Cardno Emerging Markets is a product of a merger among Cardno’s former international development units, ACIL, Agrisystems and Emerging Markets Group. It has six representative offices scattered across several global regions and operates out of project offices in more than 70 countries.


Founded: 1970Managing director and CEO: Ross HittHeadquarters: Melbourne, AustraliaAusAID funding: AU$346.7 million Other donor clients:ADB, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, World BankFocus areas: transport; water; geotechnical, mining and tunnelling services; natural resources and environment; energy and renewables; social development; buildings, urban development and local government

SMEC is a multiawarded engineering and design firm. Its more than 40 offices in Australia and internationally house more than 4,000 employees. SMEC says its work is moving from aid-funded activities to long-term projects for the private sector and government institutions.

JTA International

Founded: 1999CEO: Jane ThomasonHeadquarters: Brisbane, AustraliaAusAID funding: AU$148.5 millionOther donor clients:ADB, William J. Clinton Foundation, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, World Bank, World Health Organization Focus areas: health

JTA offers health program management services and health technical expertise. Since 2000, it says it has managed more that AU$185 million in funds, recruited more than 1,000 health workers, created a global network of senior health professionals, and contributed to health services in 17 countries. JTA’s chief, Jane Thomason, is a member of the Australian Aid Advisory Council.

URS Australia

Founded: 1904 (URS Corp.)Managing director for Asia-Pacific: David WilliamsonHeadquarters: Sydney, AustraliaAusAID funding: AU$115.4 millionOther donor clients:ADB, EU, Japan International Cooperation Agency, DfID, World BankFocus areas: forestry; governance; stabilization, recovery and reconstruction; sustainable development

URS Australia focuses on the Asia-Pacific region. It offers project design and management services, including feasibility and design studies, independent reviews and evaluation of activities, and competency-based capacity building of people and organizations.


Founded: 1983Operations manager: Carol Bellew Headquarters: Melbourne, AustraliaAusAID funding: AU$91.8 millionOther donor clients:ADB, Food and Agriculture Organization, New Zealand Aid Program, DfID, UNICEF, United Nations Development Program, USAID, World Bank, WHOFocus areas: democratic governance; civil society strengthening; water and sanitation; HIV/AIDS; education and training; natural resource management; sustainable livelihoods; maternal and child health; urban and rural development; post-disaster reconstruction

Sinclair Knight Merz

Founded: 1964CEO: Paul DougasHeadquarters: Sydney, AustraliaAusAID funding: AU$73.4 millionOther donor clients:ADB, EU, JICA, NZAid, World BankFocus areas: buildings and infrastructure; mining and metals; power and energy; water and environment

HK Logistics

Founded: 1987CEO: Information not availableHeadquarters: Sydney, AustraliaAusAID funding: AU$58.7 millionOther donor clients: Japan International Cooperation SystemFocus areas: procurement; capacity building; community development;construction and rehabilitation

Global Justice Solutions

Founded: 2003Chief operating officer: Alan McCaghHeadquarters: Perth, AustraliaAusAID funding: AU$44.1 millionOther donor clients: Danish International Development Agency, NZAid, UNDPFocus areas: legal and judicial, police, correctional and security sector reforms; anti-corruption; border security and anti-human trafficking; forensic services; human rights

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.