THE Bass Coast Shire Council will wait until its last meeting, before going into caretaker mode ahead of the October 22 shire elections, to make the biggest decision in the history of the council.
And it has taken the unusual step of appointing an independent ‘probity advisor’ to make sure everything is above board.
At stake is the supply of services for two separate rubbish contracts, potentially worth in excess of $75 million over the 10-year life of the arrangements.
In Bass Coast’s Draft Budget for 2016-17, the shire has costed out one year of waste services, including the contracted collection of domestic, smaller commercial, public place garbage and recycling and domestic hard waste, at $7.521 million.
The cost for 10 years would be at least $75 million, possibly as high as $100 million.
By his own assessment, it’s a “huge contract” according to shire CEO Paul Buckley, but if the present council accepts a new tender at its August 17 meeting, there will be no opportunity for any new council to second-guess the decision.
It will, in effect, lock away a sizeable chunk of the shire’s budget for the next 10 years, not allowing the new council to review the arrangements.
Despite the appointment of a probity advisor, Mr Buckley said the integrity of the process was not in question.
“The tenders were advertised on Tenderlink, and in The Age on January 30 and Herald Sun on February 3. They closed on Tuesday, March 8, 2016 and would usually be opened on that day,” Mr Buckley told the Sentinel-Times today.
At least two officers of the council, appointed for the purpose, open the ‘Tender Box’ in camera, on the strict condition that they play no part in the tender evaluation process.
“I was not present and wouldn’t expect to play any role in the evaluation process either. I’ll just see the final report and in this case, because it’s such a big tender, the council will make the decision.
“The Tender Link process used by council is a confidential process. The controls are standard across the industry these days to make sure that there’s no chance for any interference. All those involved need to register their names and details,” he said.
“The Tender Box can’t be opened until the tenders have closed and no late tenders are accepted.”
He said the submitted tenders were currently undergoing evaluation in accordance with the shire’s procurement policy for awarding contracts.
“Council appointed an independent probity advisor prior to evaluation commencing. Appointing an independent probity advisor demonstrates Council’s commitment to good governance,” said Mr Buckley.
The tenders were opened on March 8, the probity officer commenced work on March 9, according to Mr Buckley.
The two contracts are as follows:
• Tender No 16006 – Waste Facility Management and Operation Services.
“Council invites tenders from suitably experienced contractors for the management and operations of the Landfill and Resource Recovery Facilities (Transfer Station) and the transport recyclables to Nominated Facilities. The initial contract term is 10 years with an extension option of up to three years, to be offered at the discretion of Council.”
• Tender No 16005 – Waste Collection Services.
“Council invites tenders for suitably experienced contractors for waste collection services. The services required under the proposed contract are garbage (litter) collection service, recyclables collection service, food organics and garden organics collection service and hard waste collection service. The initial contract term is 10 years with an extension option of up to three years, to be offered at the discretion of Council.”
Presently Bass Coast uses a Wonthaggi-based firm to provide most of its waste collection services but as we saw recently, during changes to the recycling contract, letting a contract outside the area can lead to local job losses.
In council’s procurement policy, it notes that “where practical, Council will endeavour to support business and industry within the region”. It also includes “local employment” in the key selection criteria, especially where a project is long-term.
However, while the local firm is likely to have retendered, the big Latrobe Valley-based firm which provides South Gippsland Shire’s waste services, Cleanaway, is also expected to have put in a bid.
Cleanaway is part of the multi-billion ASX listed Tanspacific Industries Group.
Unfortunately while South Gippsland has made significant savings by bringing landfill services in-house, Bass Coast has included that aspect in its new 10-year contract.
If the contract is tendered in its present form, the 10-year contract might close the door to that sort of option for the new council, or future cooperation with South Gippsland.
Bass Coast Mayor, Cr Jordan Crugnale, said the provision of waste services is an important function that the community has traditionally identified as a core service area of Council. It subsequently receives a lot of interest and generates some discussion in the community.
“Council is well aware of the public interest and feedback received regarding the future delivery of this important service to our community from the consultation undertaken during the development of the Waste Management Strategy 2015,” Cr Crugnale said.
“Council has included actions identified within the Strategy in the tender documents for opportunity to test the market, such as the establishment of a waste transfer station on Phillip Island, operations of a resale shop at the Wonthaggi Transfer Station, and implementation of a kerbside food and organics collection.
“The provision of a waste transfer station on Phillip Island has been a point of interest for many years and we look forward to seeing what options are presented for Council’s consideration.”
Council will consider all tender responses in accordance with its Procurement Policy and the Local Government Act. Council has appointed a probity advisor to assist with the process due to the size and importance of the contracts.
Council will consider awarding the contracts to the preferred tenderers at Council’s Ordinary Meeting in August 2016.
The successful tenderers will then begin prepare for the commencement of their contracts over the next 12 months to ensure that any service transitions are managed smoothly as the new contracts commence in September 2017.
This preparation will include a new fleet of garbage trucks, as well as the possible implementation of a food and garden organics collection, which may commence with the new contract period.