Auditor blasts Campbell school procurement, treatment of Canberra firm

Ian Bushnell 23 December 2021 19

ACT Auditor-General Michael Harris: procurement process for the project lacked probity. Photo: File.

Major Projects Canberra has been urged to review its procurement and tender evaluation processes in a damning audit report on the multi-million dollar Campbell Primary School Modernisation Project that found tenderers were not dealt with fairly, impartially and consistently.

Auditor-General Michael Harris said the procurement process for the project lacked probity and there were a number of governance and administrative shortcomings that had the potential for conflicts of interest or undue influence to go unnoticed.

Despite Canberra firm Manteena being selected in 2020 as the preferred tender, the contract went to multi-national Lendlease after the weighted evaluation criteria used in government tenders were in effect re-weighted and re-prioritised.

The Acting Executive Group Manager, Business Services Division (Education Directorate) as the Delegate overruled the Tender Evaluation Team’s recommendation and instead recommended to the Education Directorate Director-General that Lendlease be named as the preferred tenderer because it offered the “best value for money”.

The Delegate believed that Lendlease would better manage the risks from the protracted nature of the procurement based on experience as the Secure Local Jobs Code Registrar but the audit found that the Delegate failed to adequately and appropriately document their rationale and reasoning.


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There were three Tender Evaluation Reports and in the third, Manteena outscored Lendlease 76.1 to 67.4, including for having a better design.

The Delegate noted that Lendlease outscored Manteena on three of the six weighted evaluation criteria (comprising 30 per cent) and asserted that these “are reliable long term indicators of a company’s ability to deliver quality projects and government initiatives such as Secure Local Jobs”.

The Tender Evaluation Report said “Manteena have presented a strong and cost-efficient design proposal that provides the best value for money, and the lowest risk profile” but the Delegate did not sign or endorse it, instead recommending Lendlease.

The Delegate also argued that Lendlease had closed the pricing gap and that since the Directorate acquired all intellectual property rights, Lendlease could proceed using the best elements of both designs.

“This is unfair,” the audit report found. “Such an assessment does not fairly value or reward the efforts of a tenderer and the merits of their tender.”

The audit found that a range of undocumented staff from Major Projects Canberra and the Education Directorate were involved in the procurement.

“This allows for potential influence or interference to occur without explicit and specific clarity on their role and purpose,” the audit said.

It also increased the probity risks of the procurement.


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Major Projects Canberra was also taken to task for not ensuring that participants in the procurement process completed Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest Undertaking forms.

Lendlease also sought a lower general liability cap to reduce the amount of any compensation that might be payable to the ACT due to breach of contract.

The audit report said the extra time taken to negotiate the final contract put further pressure on the delivery of the project.

The audit report made six recommendations, with five directed at Major Projects Canberra, which did not provide a response.

The Acting Executive Group Manager, Business Services Division (Education Directorate) acknowledged the shortcomings and supported the recommendations.

“I’d like to acknowledge the areas identified for process improvement in this proposed report and fully support the recommendations which will serve to strengthen probity and provide the necessary clarity of roles and responsibilities, appropriate documentation and guidance for all parties involved in the procurement process.”

Manteena welcomed the findings, which it hoped would mean future procurements did not make the same mistakes.

“While we are very disappointed in the outcomes of the procurement process, which have significantly affected Manteena and many other local Canberra-based professional consulting and subcontracting organisations who contributed to the tender process, we are hopeful that all future procurement processes will not encounter similar failings in probity, fairness, impartiality and consistency,” it said.

The ACT Government budgeted nearly $19 million for the modernisation project. Construction began early in 2021.

 


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19 Responses to Auditor blasts Campbell school procurement, treatment of Canberra firm
induscamel induscamel 12:45 pm 03 Jan 22

The full Audit report makes a compelling case for further action to be taken. Perhaps this is something the ACT Integrity Commission could take on, it seems to be well within their remit.

Emma Vickers Emma Vickers 12:14 pm 27 Dec 21

Not to mention the funding was approved in 2018 and it is still not finished 😡

Neil Marr Neil Marr 8:28 pm 26 Dec 21

My old School, was a modern new school when I was there 50 odd years ago, can't imagine what needs modernising? The PA system perhaps.

Duane O'Hare Duane O'Hare 12:07 am 25 Dec 21

Lendlease have also run this job like an absolute dogs breakfast.
I am a 3rd party supplier to this job and have seen some really good local business people break-down due to the threats, bullying tactics and woeful mismanagement of this project.

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 5:29 pm 24 Dec 21

When do the Police get involved in possible corruption?

Nick Smith Nick Smith 1:55 pm 24 Dec 21

'There were three Tender Evaluation Reports and in the third, Manteena outscored Lendlease 76.1 to 67.4, including for having a better design.'

If you're ignoring that you know what you're doing...

Petronius Petronius 10:21 am 24 Dec 21

Could someone advise what ‘undocumented staff’ means.

Paul South Paul South 6:26 am 24 Dec 21

Ohhh the rot..

Follow the money.

Canberra is a very small place with a LoT of money sloshing around .

Vladimir Svoboda Vladimir Svoboda 10:35 pm 23 Dec 21

"The Delegate also argued that Lendlease had closed the pricing gap and that since the Directorate acquired all intellectual property rights, Lendlease could proceed using the best elements of both designs."

Absolutely blows my mind. How can future tenderers deal with the ACT government in good faith at this point? Oh, your design is good, so we'll just give it to our "preferred tenderer" and because of that their application will be assessed as stronger than yours?

Its telling that Major Projects didn't even deign to respond to the findings.

    Dale Janssen Dale Janssen 1:16 am 24 Dec 21

    Vladimir Svoboda if it were a funded tender, this is the norm. the conceptual designs are essentially bought.

    Ronald Muschialli Ronald Muschialli 9:05 pm 25 Dec 21

    The surrender of IP under the terms of the tender at first blush seems perverse. However, it always pays to read tender conditions very carefully because they inevitability provide quite a lot of latitude to the party calling the tender; that’s the way I have drafted them .

Bruce Davidson Bruce Davidson 9:45 pm 23 Dec 21

I will work for Manteena any day. I refuse to work for Lend Lease

Jason Preston Jason Preston 8:50 pm 23 Dec 21

Whole ACT government needs to be audited

    John Faulkner John Faulkner 11:37 pm 23 Dec 21

    Jason Preston audited and sacked

    Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 2:22 am 24 Dec 21

    John Faulkner just sacked

    Phil Andrews Phil Andrews 3:42 pm 24 Dec 21

    Jason Preston the whole system of government - the current model is a failure.

Scott Abela Scott Abela 8:35 pm 23 Dec 21

Procurement, thats where you're mates got their kickbacks.....

    John Faulkner John Faulkner 11:36 pm 23 Dec 21

    Scott Abela I’m in total agreement with you this has been happening for years

    James Ballard James Ballard 10:05 am 24 Dec 21

    Totally ineffective probity.

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