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Councils to consider scrapping tender over "integrity" concerns

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A meeting of eastern suburbs mayors and CEOs will tonight be asked to consider scrapping a contentious tender for a multi-million dollar streetlight replacement program to allay any concerns about its “integrity”, InDaily can reveal.

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Streetlight tender under fire

Campbelltown Mayor Simon Brewer says he would be prepared to see the councils cancel and restart the competitive tender process because of concerns, revealed by InDaily this week, about the role of a tendering company’s associate in the process.

Brewer said he would ask tonight’s scheduled meeting of mayors and CEOs from Eastern Region Alliance (ERA) councils – comprising the Burnside, Campbelltown, Norwood, Payneham and St Peters, Prospect, Tea Tree Gully, Walkerville and Unley councils – if the tender should be scrapped and restarted.

The Bulk LED Replacement Program, opened to tender by the ERA, is estimated to be worth $50 million to the winning company.

“The potential project is too important for there to be any question about its integrity,” Brewer told InDaily in a statement.

“I will be asking more about this at the meeting and asking the question whether or not all tenders should be refused and the tender re-cast as a result of this information, regardless of whether it is an actual or perceived conflict of interest.

“If there are unresolved questions around the probity of the process, or there has been any relevant information withheld, or any privileged information obtained by any party that conveys a potential advantage, then the question [whether the process should be scrapped and restarted] is self-answering.”

On Monday, InDaily revealed international lighting company Citelum had cancelled its bid in the tender, principally because of concerns over the role of engineer Scott Williams in the process.

Williams is a director of lighting company ENE.HUB, which operates out of the same address as, and is the largest shareholder of, ENE.HUB SA. The latter company made a bid for the tender.

A spokesperson for the ERA confirmed Williams had also helped develop technical specifications in the tender documents, and had been project director for the Bulk LED Replacement Program.

Correspondence between a representative of the ERA councils and one of the tendering companies, seen by InDaily, also revealed the original deadline for tender submissions was extended after it was discovered ENE.HUB had had access to information other tendering companies had not.

ENE.HUB CEO Kevin Brown, who is also a director of ENE.HUB SA, told InDaily ENE.HUB did not bid in the tender, but ENE.HUB SA had made a bid.

Williams has not responded to repeated requests by InDaily for comment, but Brown 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.

Brewer said that if he accepted the facts reported by InDaily “as factual information”, then he had “concerns” with the process “even if all known information was shared with all tenderers”.

“If it is a perceived conflict then it may not be a requirement to do so, but it seems clear that a major potential tenderer [Citelum] thought it a large enough issue not to respond,” he said.

“… in my view, that may in itself be enough to trigger a re-cast, for obvious reasons.

“However, conversely, I understand this is a very small and highly specialised field, so as with Citelum not tendering potentially compromising the tender outcomes, excluding another potential supplier in a small field could also be detrimental and not lead to the best outcomes.”

He said tonight’s meeting of the ERA mayors and CEOs was a normal, scheduled meeting, but that the streetlight project was on the agenda.

He said he would raise the idea of cancelling the tender, but said he was not privy to all relevant information about the tender because “the City of Campbelltown [has] been excluded entirely from the tender process due to our previous involvement with some of the parties”.

According an email from the City of Unley’s General Manager of Assets and Environment, John Devine, sent to stakeholders regarding the tender last week, an ENE.HUB partner company, Complete Urban, had completed streetlight infrastructure audits for the Campbelltown and Unley councils, and was thereafter “asked to assist ERA to put together a technical project brief, suitable to put to the market”.

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”.

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