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Councillor calls for action on contentious streetlight tender

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UPDATED: A Marion councillor says he is disappointed by a lack of leadership from the Government and the LGA after concerns were raised about a huge local government tender to replace thousands of streetlights across Adelaide’s eastern suburbs.

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Yesterday, InDaily revealed international lighting company Citelum pulled out of the running for the Bulk LED Replacement Program, put out to tender by a group of eastern suburbs councils, principally because of concerns over the role of engineer Scott Williams in the competitive tender process.

Williams is a director of lighting company ENE.HUB – the largest shareholder in ENE.HUB SA, which made a bid for the tender.

The Eastern Region Alliance (ERA) of councils confirmed Williams had helped develop technical specifications in the tender documents, against which bidders are being judged.

The ERA – comprising the Burnside, Campbelltown, Norwood, Payneham and St Peters, Prospect, Tea Tree Gully, Walkerville and Unley councils – also confirmed Williams had been the project director for the Bulk LED Replacement Program.

The project is estimated to be worth about $50 million to the successful tenderer.

Councillor Bruce Hull told InDaily it was “a disturbing development” that required action from the Government and the Local Government Association.

A spokesperson for the LGA said the association “does not have legislative oversight of the procurement activities of its member councils” and “any questions around the issues raised below should be directed to the Eastern Region Alliance”.

Local Government Minister Geoff Brock told InDaily: “if there are concerns about the tender process, they should be directed to the Office for Public Integrity or the Ombudsman”.

City of Marion councillor Bruce Hull. Photo: City of Marion

City of Marion councillor Bruce Hull. Photo: City of Marion

“Everybody seems to be treating it as somebody else’s problem,” said Hull.

“The very least they could have done is [to say] it’s a concerning development and they’ll take a close look at it.

“It’s disappointing that we’re not getting enough stewardship from the LGA and the Government.

“That’s not really in the interests of the South Australian community.”

Williams has not returned InDaily‘s calls, but ENE.HUB CEO Kevin Brown – who is also a director of ENE.HUB SA – said Williams’ roles did not constitute a conflict of interest.

“No, and all potential conflicts were declared and managed appropriately,” Brown said in a statement.

Brown said ENE.HUB did not make a bid in the tender, but ENE.HUB SA did.

Citelum’s Australia/NZ managing director Adam Carey told InDaily the lighting company pulled out of the tender because of “perceived conflicts of interest” and fears its intellectual property could be inadvertently shared with a competitor.

A spokesperson for the ERA had told InDaily that representatives of the council grouping “refute any suggestion or implication that there has been a lack of probity”.

The ERA had appointed a probity adviser “who constantly reviews all aspects of the procurement process and has indicated that this project is being conducted in an open and transparent manner in regards to probity and the approved process”.

Meanwhile, Opposition Local Government spokesperson Steven Griffiths says he will meet with the ERA and encouraged Brock to do the same.

He said he would make contact “so that the process that they’ve gone through can be explained to me”.

“It’s appropriate for me to meet with them to … find out the specifics of this project,” he said.

“I don’t know if there is a problem [with the tender process].

“[However] my responsibility is to ask questions.”

Griffiths said he wanted to find out what the ERA’s probity advisor had determined about the tender process.

He told InDaily he also wanted to understand the functions of the ERA grouping, as he supported councils collaborating to deliver projects.

 

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