Se­cret re­port sees the light of day

NT News - - FRONT PAGE - CHRISTO­PHER WALSH

A SCATHING re­port that NT Hous­ing Depart­ment chief ex­ec­u­tive Jamie Chalker tried to hide last week has been re­leased, re­veal­ing pro­cure­ment process fail­ures and breaches of pol­icy that no staffer is be­ing held re­spon­si­ble for.

The pro­bity re­port was called into the depart­ment’s award­ing of the Alice Springs town camps man­age­ment con­tract to Zo­diac Busi­ness Ser­vices in late 2015.

It shows nu­mer­ous fail­ures through­out the process.

For­mer hous­ing min­is­ter Bess Price took a job with Zo­diac af­ter los­ing her seat last year. The com­pany was awarded millions of dol­lars worth of con­tracts but none of the other con­tracts were reviewed.

A SCATHING re­port that NT Hous­ing Depart­ment chief ex­ec­u­tive Jamie Chalker tried to hide last week has been re­leased, re­veal­ing pro­cure­ment process fail­ures and breaches of pol­icy that no staffer is be­ing held re­spon­si­ble for.

The pro­bity re­port was called into the depart­ment’s award­ing of the Alice Springs town camps man­age­ment con­tract to Zo­diac Busi­ness Ser­vices in late 2015. It shows nu­mer­ous fail­ures through­out the process in­clud­ing depart­ment staffers with­hold­ing in­for­ma­tion to in­de­pen­dent ad­vis­ers, as­sess­ment panel mem­bers mys­te­ri­ously ap­pointed, un­in­ves­ti­gated al­le­ga­tions of bias and no ten­der as­sess­ment plan.

For­mer hous­ing min­is­ter Bess Price took a job with Zo­diac shortly af­ter los­ing her seat last year. The com­pany was awarded millions of dol­lars worth of con­tracts over two years but none of the other con­tracts were reviewed.

Owner Melissa Young did not com­ment on the re­port’s re­lease when con­tacted by the NT News yes­ter­day.

The pro­bity re­port shows the depart­ment’s first as­sess­ment panel for the town camps con­tract found that then-provider Cen­tral Aus­tralia Af­ford­able Hous­ing Com­pany was the “pre­ferred ten­derer with ca­pac­ity and past per­for­mance of de­liv­er­ing the works ...”.

But, de­spite ini­tially giv­ing it the high­est score on the “value for money” weight­ing, it later con­cluded that it was “not value for money”.

The panel then gave Zo­diac the high­est value for money score. The pro­bity re­port stated that was a breach of proper process. “The ini­tial as­sess­ment panel did not com­ply with the pro­cure­ment di­rec­tions in that they did not rec­om­mend CAAHC be awarded the ten­der ...” it stated.

Unusual pric­ing was dis­cov­ered when Zo­diac’s bid was nearly $300,000 less than the $1 mil­lion ten­der es­ti­mate and CAAHC’s was $1 mil­lion over. Staff did noth­ing to clar­ify the dis­crep­ancy, the re­port stated.

The pro­bity re­port also found a mem­ber of the ini­tial as­sess­ment panel had a bias com­plaint lodged against them by CAAHC. The panel and the in­de­pen­dent pro­bity ad­viser at the time were not made aware of the bias al­le­ga­tion, which should have seen that mem­ber re­moved un­der con­flict of in­ter­est rules.

The depart­ment later es­tab­lished a new as­sess­ment panel with two of the pre­vi­ous panel mem­bers. That was ques­tioned in the re­port.

“It is our opin­ion that the ob­jec­tiv­ity of these two in­di­vid­u­als was im­paired as they were fully aware of the de­lib­er­a­tions and rec­om­men­da­tions of the first ten­der as­sess­ment panel,” it said. The sec­ond panel changed the scores with no ex­pla­na­tion. The re­port also found Zo­diac was awarded the con­tract for in­dige­nous town camps with­out an in­dige­nous em­ploy­ment strat­egy.

In a me­dia re­lease, Mr Chalker said he “has ac­cepted the rec­om­men­da­tions of the au­dit in full.” The pro­bity re­port stated it was not con­ducted in ac­cor­dance with au­dit­ing stan­dards and it could not “de­tect ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, in­clud­ing fraud”. Ms Price did not re­turn calls yes­ter­day.

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