COUNCIL REFERRED TO CRIME COMMISSION
WHITSUNDAY mayor Jennifer Whitney says she welcomes an ‘assessment’ of Council’s procurement processes by the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC).
Council was referred to the CCC by the Whitsunday Regional Residents Association (WRRA), whose president Ross Newell said concerns had been raised about the recent purchase of five front deck mowers.
The tender for the mowers was awarded to Bowen Power’Quip & Cycles at a Council meeting on November 26.
Cr Whitney left the room when the time came to vote, declaring an interest due to her family business ‘Proserpine Machinery’ also tendering for the supply.
The final decision was passed with deputy mayor Andrew Willcox using his casting vote.
About two weeks later, Cr Whitney’s daughter attended a Council meeting in Proserpine on behalf of Proserpine Machinery to ask questions about the procurement process.
One of her questions was why the mowers Council eventually decided to buy were not ‘front deck’ ma- chines as specified in the tender documents.
This was responded to by Council’s CEO Scott Waters at the first Council meeting of 2015, on January 28.
At this meeting Mr Waters admitted Council had chosen to buy a product which “is not a front deck mower, as included in the specifications”.
He said Council had made its choice based on the “most advantageous” and “value for money” offer.
Meanwhile, Proserpine Machinery owner Shane Whitney, who had also sought to have these questions answered under the Freedom of In- formation Act, said he thought if Council was “going to change their specifications, we should have all been allowed to tender for that type of product”.
He described the situation as similar to asking a car dealer for a station wagon and being given a utility.
“You could say it’s still a car [and] it’ll still get you from A to B but they’re two totally different products,” he said.
On February 6, after two of the mowers had already been supplied, Bowen Power’Quip owner, Adrian Schroeter received a letter from Mr Waters saying Council had concerns about misrepresentation of the product.
The letter also asked what engagement Mr Schroeter’s company had with councillors during the quotation and decision-making process.
Mr Schroeter said his answer was “none”.
He also said while the mowers he supplied were indeed ‘undercarriage’ as opposed to ‘front deck’, they “far exceeded the out-fronts” and their full specifications were provided to Council as required.
“As far as I’m concerned it’s just business,” he said.
“There’s plenty of tenders I put out to Council that we don’t win – you win some you lose some.”
WRRA president Ross Newell said as a result of these events, he and others in his organisation believed there was sufficient evidence to ask the CCC to investigate.
A CCC spokesperson confirmed receipt of the complaint, saying it was now being ‘assessed’.
“It is important to note than an assessment is not an investigation – when the CCC receives a complaint it first assesses the matter to determine whether it falls within the CCC’s jurisdiction, whether an investigation is warranted and if so, how it should be dealt with,” the spokesperson said. Cr Whitney said she welcomed the assessment.
“This council operates in an open and transparent way and if the community feels any aspect of the business needs to go to the CCC I’m more than happy to see it happening,” she said.
Cr Whitney also said her family company had been tendering to this and other councils since 1987.
“At the end of the day just because I’m mayor doesn’t mean my business can’t tender,” she said.
“Council should assess on fit for purpose, on what can deliver and do the job and what's the best value for money based on the advice of officers and staff.”