Mate gets $2.6m deal

Mercury (Hobart) - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID KIL­LICK Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

A STATE pub­lic ser­vant im­prop­erly awarded or in­flu­enced $2.6 mil­lion in con­tracts to a mate, the In­tegrity Com­mis­sion has found — with projects split into smaller con­tracts to dodge ten­der rules.

AN Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment man­ager im­prop­erly awarded or in­flu­enced $2.6 mil­lion in con­tracts in favour of a mate in a highly-so­phis­ti­cated end run around gov­ern­ment pur­chas­ing rules, the In­tegrity Com­mis­sion has found.

The Com­mis­sion yes­ter­day re­leased its re­port of its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of a con­flict of in­ter­est and breaches of pro­cure­ment guide­lines by the man­ager.

It found that the man­ager did not de­clare the friend­ship, and broke Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment projects into a series of smaller parts to avoid hav­ing to go to com­pet­i­tive ten­der.

The two men went to school and col­lege to­gether, spent time to­gether out­side of work and con­sid­ered them­selves close friends. At one point the friend’s busi­ness wrote the spec­i­fi­ca­tions for work it ten­dered for, then won them at a price dou­ble that of other ten­der­ers, the re­port said.

He sub­se­quently formed an­other com­pany.

“The new busi­ness … then pro­vided a series of quotes for mul­ti­me­dia projects in re­sponse to briefs capped by the man­ager be­low $50,000, avoid­ing the ne­ces­sity for open test­ing of the mar­ket,” the re­port said. “The man­ager ac­cepted the quotes, re­sult­ing in pay­ments of more than $500,000 to the new busi­ness in its first month of ex­is­tence.

“The busi­ness was paid a to­tal of $889,000 in the 2016 cal­en­dar year, al­most $151,000 in 2017 and $62,000 in 2018.”

The com­mis­sion did not name the man­ager — who has re­signed from the pub­lic ser­vice — or the friend, say­ing the de­ci­sion was in part to pro­tect their pri­vacy. It was not clear whether ei­ther would face crim­i­nal or civil ac­tion.

In 2017, in re­sponse to me­dia in­quiries about the ten­der­ing, the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion as­sured the pub­lic ev­ery­thing was above board.

“An in­de­pen­dent pro­bity ad­vi­sory from KPMG over­saw ev­ery step of the pro­cesses and en­dorsed they had com­plied with the pro­cure­ment frame­work,” the depart­ment said.

Yes­ter­day it said it took al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct very se­ri­ously and had re­ported the mat­ter to the In­tegrity Com­mis­sion.

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