Council’s secrecy under fire over winning tenders
LONG-time Gympie council traffic contractors have questioned the local government's tender transparency after their hours vanished despite being a preferred supplier.
Aaction Traffic operations supervisor Jason Richardson wants the council to review its system, saying it was not clear how a company with Aaction's track record now missed the cut on jobs.
"We've got drivers going from 50 hours per week to scraping by on 20," he said.
From July to October this year, Aaction staff had 594 traffic control shifts each month for council and other clients.
Last month the number plummeted to 280.
Mr Richardson said under the system, which was calculated not by individual tenders but within the council, Aaction had gone from top to bottom.
"We supply them with the prices for everything - and I know that some of the things we're cheapest, some we're not - but … as soon as that non-monetary bit comes on, that puts us straight to the bottom," he said.
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And he said this was puzzling as Aaction had worked with the council for more than six years and employed 24 locals.
"The non-monetary is based on safety, compliance and local footprint," Mr Richardson said.
He said Aaction's 24 staff members were all Gympie employees, whereas other companies were using drivers from outside the region.
And although the winning tenderers were all rated by the council on their pricing and non-monetary values, Mr Richardson did not know how Aaction had been rated.
Unlike 2016, when an open council report showed Aaction's 100.63 rating narrowly beat Verifact's 99.72 rating, this year's tender report and debate over it in August was held behind closed doors.
The only information available was this: Mayor Mick Curran and Councillor Mal Gear both left the meeting due to conflicts of interest with tenderers, and the suppliers (Verifact, Aaction and Acquired Awareness Traffic Management) were approved unanimously by the remaining councillors.
A council spokesman said all tenders were now "generally being considered in committee due to the sensitive commercial nature of the discussions around them".
"Council officers are happy to discuss with tenderers how their submission was assessed and provide feedback on areas for improvement."
Non-monetary values were included in the 2016 evaluations.
These were around skills and experience, resources and proximity to Gympie, and "demonstrated understanding". This year, the criteria included contract experience and capability, methodology of project delivery, quality, health and safety and the benefit to locals."
But Mr Richardson said his efforts to find out how to change Aaction's non-monetary component had been futile.
"I've asked 'what can we do to improve our non-monetary rating', and was fobbed off," Mr Richardson said.
"It should be transparent."
Mr Richardson said the non-monetary figure should be reviewed regularly.
A council spokesman said it was a static figure but the council "continually evaluates and manages the performance of all its suppliers to ensure they uphold the conditions of the contract."
Workers forced to travel two hours for jobs
AACTION Traffic's Elise Mauger said the group's two dozen employees are "struggling" since its council work dried up.
And the pain extends to their families.
"My daughter goes into day care," Ms Mauger said.
"For me to drive down the coast for work I'm having to pull her out of bed at 3.30am to drive down there to get there in time.
"We generally have early starts, anywhere from 5am-7am."
Since Gympie Regional Council awarded its latest pre-supplied contract for traffic control, Ms Mauger said work hours had shrivelled from about 40 each week to 10.
It was forcing staff to take work outside the region.
"Because we're all locally based … a lot of the boys are now travelling one and a half to two hours down the coast for work now," she said.
"A lot of us have families to support.
"That's made it quite difficult, especially with the time of year it's hit.
"A lot of us are struggling.
"A lot of the boys have got mortgages and got kids, and we've all got bills to pay.
"It's rubbed us all the wrong way, especially being local. Not only that, it's our company and we put all our money back into town.
"We get all our vehicles serviced here."