The Auditor General should now investigate concerns which had been raised about the way the Rann Government had handled the tendering process for the State Aquatic Centre and GP Plus Centre at Marion.
In June the Rann Government announced that the Aqua43 consortium, including MacQuarie Bank and Candetti Constructions, had been the successful tenderers for the $50 million State Aquatic Centre and $27 million GP Plus project at Marion.
Liberal Member of the Legislative Council, Rob Lucas, said today that Premier Rann announced that the State Government, Federal Government and Marion Council would now contribute $40 million plus the land value (which some estimates put at more than $5 million) towards the final cost of the $50 million aquatic centre.
Mr Lucas said that State Budget papers also indicated a $27 million capital contribution from taxpayers towards the GP Plus Centre at Marion.
“People within the industry with detailed knowledge of the project and tendering process have raised a number of concerns,” Mr Lucas said. They include:
• The successful tenderer (out of three short-listed consortia) had used a strategy of ‘bid low, go high’ to win the tender i.e. they won the tender by bidding on the basis that Government costs of the project would be kept much lower than if other tenderers were successful, but then changed that position after they won the bid;
• When the Government was confronted with a changed bid from MacQuarie/Candetti, it did not go back to the other short-listed consortia to allow them to alter their bids or have their bids reconsidered;
• Given the very high funding commitment now from Governments and Council, MacQuarie/ Candetti would make an unreasonable profit at taxpayers’ expense.
“In evidence to the Legislative Council Budget and Finance Committee, the Under Treasurer, Mr Jim Wright, confirmed that Crown Law advice on probity issues relating to this matter had been sought before the Government had continued its process.
“Interestingly, Mr Wright refused to answer questions on whether Treasury supported the deal or whether they had expressed concerns about the deal.”
Hon RI Lucas: “Did Treasury support the final deal, or did you express concerns?
Mr J Wright: “That was advice to Cabinet, and I would like to keep it that way.
Hon RI Lucas: “You would prefer not to answer that?
Mr J Wright: “That is right.”
(Hansard, 30 June 2008, Budget and Finance Committee)
“Mr Wright also could not answer whether the Government or the private sector would actually own the aquatic centre or whether the State Budget papers were accurate when they claimed $27 million in capital payments would be paid by the Government for the Marion GP Plus centre.
“Mr Wright has been asked to again appear before the Budget and Finance Committee to answer these questions and many others about the deal.
“The Auditor General should be investigating this deal urgently to give an assurance that the interests of taxpayers have been protected properly and that the Rann Government has conducted a fair tendering process,” Mr Lucas said.
Note: This release directs criticism at the Rann Government’s handling of this project and not the private sector companies involved.