COUN­CIL RE­FERRED TO CRIME COM­MIS­SION

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

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.”

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