City of Canning Mayor Patrick Hall has defended tender information made available to ratepayers following the release of a damning report that ranked its process among the least transparent in the State.
Released by the Civil Contractors Federation of WA [CFF WA], the report, Transparency in Western Australian Local Government tender evaluation, ranked 29 local government areas on the transparency of their tender process.
A score out of 10 was allocated to each local government for their transparency in seven categories.
These categories were publishing all companies that tendered (1 point), publishing all prices bid (2), publishing successful tenderer and price bid (1), publishing each tenderers scores against evaluation criteria – non-price only (2), publishing each bidders scores against evaluation criteria – price and non-price (1), publishing some explanation of why the successful bidder was chosen (1.5) and publishing a detailed explanation of why the successful bidder was chosen.
The city scored a paltry two out of 10.
Even the Shires of Capel and Dardanup scored higher, while Canning’s neighbour to the South, the City of Gosnells, scored 8.5 out of 10, while the City of Joondalup scored a perfect 10 out of 10.
Under section 5.23(2)(c) of the Local Government Act, councils may choose to close to members of the public any part of a council meeting which deals with “a contract entered into, or which may be entered into, by the local government and which relates to a matter to be discussed at the meeting.”
CFF WA chief executive Andy Graham wrote in the report this was used as a justification to not release information on tenders.
“Council minutes we examined often referred to s. 5.23(2)(c) as justification for why tender evaluation assessments and tender pricing information were not published.
“While the Act states councils may withhold information related to contracts, some council minutes seem to suggest that the Act compels them to withhold information.
“There is a balance between publicly detailing why a tenderer is recommended to be awarded the contract (and why other bidders were not successful) and maintaining the confidentiality of any sensitive information provided.
“However, this does not explain why some councils do not even publish the prices tendered, nor the bidders’ scores against the evaluation criteria.”
The published details of the City of Canning’s tender for the Cecil Avenue East main works contains the tenders received and the successful tenderer (BMD Urban) at a cost of $9,356,563.
No further information, such as scores against evaluation criteria or a justification as to why the successful bidder was chosen, is published.
In response, City of Canning Mayor Patrick Hall seemed to question its relevance and validity.
“The CCF is a civil engineering industry lobby group.
“Its self-identified criteria for transparency relates to the level of information being made available to its members, which is not the same as transparency in tendering.
“Transparency in tendering involves ensuring that all tender parties are assessed against the same criteria and that the decision to award a tender can be explained to tender parties and auditors by reference to the evaluation criteria.
“The city is transparent and makes sufficient information public to all parties that have tendered, the directors of each of those entities and the successful tender and tender price.
“The city offers the unsuccessful tenderers a de-brief session so that they can receive an explanation as to why they were unsuccessful.
“The information made public (by the city) in its council reports focuses on the transparency and integrity of the process taken, and how the decision-making was kept fair and honest.
“The city believes its procurement practices align to best practice, as evidenced by audit findings, as recently as 2021 which found the city’s Procurement Framework to be in accordance with WA Department of Finance Procurement Rules and Office of the Auditor General Better Practice Guidelines.”
Mr Hall did not directly respond to a question asking if, given recent rate rises and the city’s precarious financial position, ratepayers should expect the city to be as transparent as possible, regardless of its adherence to the Local Government Act.
By contrast, the City of Gosnells scored an 8.5 out of 10, with chief executive Ian Cowie saying that being as transparent as possible was fundamental to building trust with the community.
“The city tries to be as open and transparent as it can in all of its reporting, including reports dealing with tenders,” he said.
“The city is always looking for opportunities to improve the way it operates.
“Consideration will be given to publishing a more detailed explanation in tender reports, however, the level of detail provided would likely reflect the nature and complexity of goods or services being procured.”
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