An Education Directorate official involved in the second tender evaluation team for the Campbell Primary School modernisation project had been aware of rumours the CFMEU and Minister Yvette Berry’s office were unhappy with Manteena being selected as the preferred tenderer, the Integrity Commission heard on Thursday (28 September).
Senior Director for Education and Major Projects Dylan Blom told the commission he had heard rumours “that within this process, the union via the minister’s office were unhappy with Manteena being recommended”.
Mr Blom said he had raised concerns surrounding the tender evaluation process with both his management within the directorate and with Major Projects Canberra.
He said he spoke to a superior within the directorate over the phone regarding the issue, who was “somewhat aware of what was going on” and told him to “proceed with the process”.
“I understood it as he was aware … that there was pressure being put on the delegate from [the] union [and the] minister’s office.”
Mr Blom said he chose to speak to Major Projects Canberra because “I had concerns that raising it within the directorate was not going to go anywhere given where the rumours were coming from”.
The first tender evaluation team had assessed Manteena as the preferred tenderer with a score of 79 out of 100 and a low-risk rating, and given Lendlease a score of 52 and a medium-risk rating. The tender evaluation report was not endorsed by the Education Directorate delegate, known by the pseudonym John Green.
At least one of the team members was dissatisfied with this outcome and quit, resulting in the tender evaluation team being disbanded.
Mr Blom was one of the people selected for the second tender evaluation team in March 2020.
He told the commission he found it concerning that one of the first tender evaluation team members did not want to proceed.
“My concerns at this time, and I was raising these concerns, was that people were being asked to do things that they weren’t comfortable doing,” he said.
Mr Green had been pushing for the tenders to be evaluated through a ‘best and final offer’ (BAFO) process, something he had made known to the second tender evaluation team.
Mr Blom said that, in addition, Mr Green had concerns the first tender evaluation team had been “swayed by a stronger design submission” from Manteena and this had “skewed their views in the scores of other criteria”.
“The delegate very much inserted himself into this reevaluation process with quite a lot of input,” he said.
Mr Blom said the second team was under “incredible time pressure” and lacked some of the contextual information and exposure to the earlier aspects of the process that the first team had.
“There was a lot of information and context that second group didn’t have that we needed to fairly assess these tenders properly”.
Ten days after the second team had been formed, it delivered its report in which Manteena’s rating dropped to 69 out of 100 and Lendlease’s raised to 68 out of 100.
In response to a request for a BAFO from the two tenderers, Manteena provided a revised tender price of $15.1 million and Lendlease provided a revised tender price of $15.997 million.
A third signed and final tender evaluation report in June 2020 sought approval to enter into a contract for Phase 1 of the project with Manteena, stating that “Manteena have presented a strong and cost-efficient design proposal that provides best value for money”.
Mr Green did not endorse the report and instead provided an executive brief to the Director-General of the Education Directorate that sought approval to enter into a contract with Lendlease.
“In hindsight, it felt like we were put in a situation where we were hoped to do the wrong thing or hoped to get a different outcome … and they would have said tender evaluation team have recommended Lendlease, tick,” Mr Blom said.
“I felt pretty helpless in terms of being able to speak to anyone because I didn’t know what was going on beyond what I was being allowed to see.”