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Contentious tender attracts Ombudsman's attention

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The SA Ombudsman will be “making inquiries” with eastern suburbs councils after concerns were raised about their tender for a multi-million dollar streetlight replacement program, InDaily can reveal.

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Streetlight tender under fire

Deputy Ombudsman Emily Strickland said Ombudsman Wayne Lines would be making inquiries with the Eastern Region Alliance of councils following the publication of concerns about the tender process in InDaily.

Strickland said that while no complaints had been received about the tender, the Ombudsman’s office had the power to initiate its own investigation if necessary.

“We hadn’t received a complaint about the streetlight tender,” said Strickland.

“But we will be making some inquiries … as to whether we need to commence an own-initiative investigation.

“We’re not saying we’re formally going to investigate yet – we’re just making some inquiries.”

Mayors and CEOs from the Burnside, Campbelltown, Norwood, Payneham and St Peters, Prospect, Tea Tree Gully, Walkerville and Unley councils (the Eastern Region Alliance) agreed earlier this week to commission an independent review of their tender for the Bulk LED Replacement Program.

The project, to replace thousands of streetlights with energy-efficient LED’s across eastern Adelaide, is estimated to be worth $50 million to the successful company.

The Eastern Region Alliance (ERA) made the decision to commission the review despite having employed 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”.

An ERA spokesperson had said in a statement, prior to the publication of InDaily‘s first report of concerns about the tender process, that the group of councils “refute any suggestion or implication that there has been a lack of probity”.

On Monday, InDaily revealed international lighting company Citelum had withdrawn from the tender process for the Bulk LED Replacement Program because of concerns about the role played by an associate of a competing company (among other issues).

Engineer Scott Williams is a director of lighting company ENE.HUB.

ENE.HUB is the largest shareholder of – and operates out of the same Sydney address as – ENE.HUB SA, which made a bid for the tender.

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

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”.

ENE.HUB CEO Kevin Brown – who is also a director of ENE.HUB SA – said Williams’ role in the tender process had not constituted a conflict of interest, and “all potential conflicts were declared and managed appropriately”.

InDaily has attempted to contact the Phillip Zubrinich – whom the ERA spokesperson said was engaged as a probity advisor for the tender – for comment.

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