Page 206 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 11 February 2015

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In recent weeks I have spent time with one of the previous contractors, a hardworking Canberra taxpayer who is doing his best to get ahead despite the roadblocks put in his way by this government. It is a true small business that operates from home and wears many hats. The operator, like everyone else interested in tendering for the latest package of work with TAMS, was informed at a compulsory industry briefing meeting that no one contractor would be awarded more than one contract. Yet it seems in this instance that Citywide has been awarded more than one contract, being successful for all three work packages.

If in fact operators were told that they would only win a maximum of one package of work, this then informs their pricing for the tender. Efficiencies that may be gained by winning multiple work packages cannot be included in their proposal. Likewise the opportunity for operators to be creative and collaborate has been denied. Questions do need to be asked as to whether Citywide was informed of the same conditions and whether or not all tenderers were competing on a level playing field.

To add insult to injury, Citywide have previously been successful tenderers for a mowing contract. And this is where the value for money argument that the government keep pushing comes unstuck. Citywide did not complete the contract for the agreed price. In fact, my understanding is that they could not come close to completing the job for the price for which they tendered. So the excess work was given to local contractors at an hourly rateā€”an hourly rate that I imagine is far in excess of what a fixed price contract, or the next best tender option, would have provided. How on earth can this government justify this kind of debacle as value for money for ACT taxpayers?

If the due diligence was being done effectively and efficiently, alarm bells most definitely should have been ringing when, in the 2012 tender submission, Citywide provided the price. As most people would expect, when it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

According to the service agreement that Citywide entered into with Territory and Municipal Services in 2012, they had tendered that the dryland mowing in Yarralumla and Deakin would take approximately 27 hours to complete, and submitted a tendered price of $229.20 including GST to do that body of work. That is less than $8.50 per hour. Those good unionists on the opposite side of the chamber would recognise that $8.50 an hour is well below what any award rate would be for a mowing contractor in the territory, let alone the cost that would be involved by the time you factor in the operating cost of machinery. It is simply not possible to provide that work for that price. This should have set alarm bells ringing within the department when assessing tender proposals, but, alas, the ACT government took the bait at the expense of a local operator.

Again, in 2015, Citywide have been given a mowing package in the ACT at the expense of local operators simply because they have submitted what the industry recognises as the cheapest price, but they believe it is unrealistic for the scale of the job and the stringent conditions which TAMS and the ACT government require any contractor to adhere to.

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