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Library tender decision stands after challenge

GISBORNE company McCannics will not be allowed to take part in the tender process for the $5.5 million H.B. Williams Memorial Library extension after an emergency meeting of Gisborne District Council refused to reverse an earlier decision.

But the council has agreed to take a new look at its tender process.

An emergency meeting yesterday eventually saw the council decide to accept the explanation of chief executive Judy Campbell on why McCannics was declined

But not all councillors were happy with the process and wanted the policy reviewed.

The meeting was called by Mayor Meng Foon, who asked why McCannics had passed the threshold for the expression of interest for the council administration centre but was declined for the library.

Chief executive Judy Campbell protested the fact an emergency meeting had been called, calling it “overkill.”

The council had a strong, robust and transparent tendering process in accordance with the Auditor General’s guidelines, she said.

The expression of interest made it clear the council was seeking a company that had a track record of building buildings valued at more than $5 million.

“The fact that McCannics had never built anything of that size excluded them from the process,” she said.

Without being too detailed, she could say that at least three firms made it through that process and one was local.

“McCannics failed on the basis that they have not built something worth $5 million before.

They put in information for the early-stage extrapolations for the building project but the strengthening or replacement programme and the prices involved were not known at that stage.

McCannics failed to go furtherIt was a $50,000 job to see what solutions were possible at that early stage and McCannics failed to go further in that $50,000 job process, Mrs Campbell told councillors.

“As I have said in writing to you all, it is technically possible to reopen the process and allow McCannics to tender but that will put the council at significant risk on the basis that we have a process that we have used in all of our other tendering processes.

“You run the risk of challenge from those who made it through the appropriate benchmarks, of them saying why do we have to obey the rules (while) you have let someone else through who did not.

“You also run the risk that you never do a successful narrowing down of tendering, which is what the expression of interest stage is about. We don’t require a lot of information at that stage so we are not putting people to a lot of expense. We make an assessment and we narrow down the field so we end up with a more manageable process, and those who put the effort in have every likelihood of success.”

The council could instruct her to reopen the process and allow McCannics to tender but that would be at their risk and the council’s, which was why she had declined the Mayor’s request to reopen it.

Andy Cranston said there would be relatively few jobs worth $5 million in Gisborne. Local firms would not have the experience and would be excluded. Could the criteria include the ability to do a job?

Graeme Thomson said he could not remember the $5 million figure being raised in tender processes in which he was involved.

Local firms with experienceMrs Campbell said a local firm did make it through, so there were local firms with the experience. The council was not the only one building in town. The Polytech spent millions of dollars and Currie Construction had worked on that. Gisborne companies had the opportunity to work on school buildings, many of which were in the millions.

“You had a process that was transparent and which everybody knew about, and you are now saying you don’t like the result.”

Roger Haisman said the $5 million figure was arbitrary. A company could simply hire somebody with the necessary experience.

Bill Burdett said that with oversight the job could be done by a local.

Mrs Campbell said as the person responsible for managing the council budgets and bringing them in on time, “I am not in favour of letting people learn on the job on our big contracts.”

Brian Wilson said the real discussion was around procurement and this sort of situation had not been discussed then. People had the right to challenge council decisions and these discussions should be held logically without undue vested interests. The topic was worth discussing and it was unfortunate the council was holding a special meeting to discuss it.

Mrs Campbell said there were committee meetings last week and there would be a council meeting in a fortnight. Her understanding was that McCannics were many millions away from the $5 million mark.

Mr Foon said this was still a learning experience so they would accept the explanation and refer the subject back to the performance, audit and risk committee for its consideration.

The chief executive had said this meeting was a waste of time. It was not because there were matters they wished to discuss, he said,

Mrs Campbell said she had not used those words. Her comment was that an emergency meeting was called when the council was meeting in a fortnight and had met last week.