Road works are among the services Lismore council called for tenders on.
Road works are among the services Lismore council called for tenders on. Patrick Gorbunovs

Council examines contract process after tender call fizzes

WHAT looked like a straightforward matter - the approval of tenders to "supply various materials" to Lismore City Council - has ignited significant debate and resulted in all tenders being re-advertised.

Lismore council in November advertised for contractors to supply materials such as soil, sand and metal dust, ready-mixed concrete and chemicals, and services including traffic control, tree lopping and kerb and gutter extrusions.

The tenders had been advertised on industry websites TenderLink and ICN Gateway Local Buy, as well as in The Northern Star and The Echo newspapers.

But councillor Matthew Scheibel was concerned the number of tenders received was particularly low, with only two companies tendering in most of the categories. He questioned whether it represented the best value for ratepayers' dollars.

The council's acting infrastructure services director, Phil Klepzig, confirmed the number of tenders was "considerably down on last time".

Cr Scheibel put forward a motion to reject all tenders and start again.

But councillor Vanessa Ekins said now the council had publicly revealed the prices in the original tender process, any new tenderer would be able to use that information and undercut them.

"I feel very uncomfortable with this. People have put in tenders in good faith and their figures are now on the table," she said.

There was also considerable discussion about whether the council should have advised existing contractors the tenders had been advertised.

But assets manager Scott Turner warned that "ICAC took a very dim view" of councils showing favourable treatment to one contractor over another.

The council will now also "review its notification methods for tenders" and as it now does all of its advertising through an in-house publication called Local Matters, they may not appear in The Northern Star and The Echo.

There was some discussion about whether this would satisfy legal requirement that tenders appear in "a newspaper that is widely circulated in the local government area".

In the interim, existing contractors will continue on a month-to-month agreement until a new tender process can be put in place.