22 April 2024

Green Shed dumping: Auditor-General to probe tender

| Ian Bushnell
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the Green Shed exterior

The Green Shed at Mugga Lane. The audit will examine whether the tender was fair, transparent and equitable. Photo: Region.

The dumping of The Green Shed from running the ACT Government’s reuse facilities at Mugga Lane and Mitchell will now be investigated by the ACT Auditor-General.

In March, Transport and City Services awarded a new contract to the St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn, better known as Vinnies, prompting an emotional reaction from the public on social media.

ACT Auditor-General Michael Harris announced that the Audit Office would look at the probity of TCCS’s procurement but not why it decided to put the services at the Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre and the Mitchell Resource Management Centre out to tender.

The audit would examine whether the tender was fair, transparent and equitable, and was expected to be handed to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in the first quarter of 2024-25.

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After 14 years operating at both sites, The Green Shed recycling and second-hand goods business operated by Charlie Bigg-Wither and Sandie Parkes had won a loyal following.

The loss of the contract shocked the owners and many in the community, who took to social media to express their grief and anger at TCCS’s decision to change providers.

Both Mr Bigg-Wither and Vinnies would not comment on the Auditor-General’s decision to investigate.

The Auditor-General said the audit would focus on how TCCS planned for and conducted the procurement, which began in 2023 and concluded in March 2024 when the new contract was announced.

It would consider whether the procurement met policy objectives and provided for a fair, transparent and equitable process.

It would look at how TCCS engaged and communicated with potential service providers and assessed and evaluated their responses against the tender criteria.

The audit would consider whether appropriate processes were followed, including if any procurement rules or requirements were broken or not met.

It would also examine whether the contract was the best value-for-money outcome for taxpayers, whether the Vinnies deal aligned with ACT Government policies, and whether it met the terms and conditions of the procurement.

The audit would not consider the reasons for, or merit, of the tender, including the initial identification of business and operational needs.

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Vinnies has set an ambitious target to reduce material sent to landfill by 10 to 30 per cent over the next four years, which is believed to be a key reason for its preference over The Green Shed.

The new contract commences on 31 May 2024 and has an initial service term of four years, with possible extensions of up to two more years.

Vinnies has said any staff who wants to stay will be re-employed. Transition talks are continuing.

The Green Shed will finish on 30 May, but between 31 May and 30 June, Vinnies will accept donations from the public at the Mitchell and Mugga Lane shopfronts but may not open for trading to the public until 1 July.

It is expected that the business will be rebranded.

The Green Shed itself won a tender to operate the reuse facilities, ousting the incumbent Revolve business.

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David Riddell9:30 am 23 Apr 24

After Revolve the Mugga Lane and Mitchell Reuseable Facilities were run by Aussie Junk. After AJ left and tenders were called Mugga Lane was being managed by Thiess on a temporary basis. At the same Mitchell was also managed by Thiess but under contract. Thiess had called the Mitchell Reusable Facility the R-Shop. So TGS ousted no one from Mugga and Thiess from Mitchell.

Vinnies just wants Green Shed to intercept the donation stream for their refugee services. They’ll take out all the clothes and furniture they want for those programs and won’t really be too interested in the rest. It’s mission creep for Vinnies, and not their core business. Eventually Vinnies themselves will realise it: they’ll conduct a “review” which will result in “streamlining” and they’ll divest it again. ACT Government should’ve just abided by the common sense rule if “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But alas, they’ve needlessly busy-bodied into an operation that was doing fine, and now it’s a rooster-up. What a woftam.

A hell of a lot of assertions made on zero basis in that comment. The process audit should give some interesting insight, but the old ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ also aligns very nicely with ‘how to pay far too much too often for everything’ as well, so it is most definitely not that simple.

Vinnies have a contract to deliver specific services so not sure how or why you think they’ll be moving away from those requirements to support other parts of their activities.

As for the “nothing broke” comment, if this was the case, how did the Green Shed lose the tender then? Should the government just pay private businesses higher and higher amounts so as to not rock the cart?

Whilst we can wait for the audit process to shed more light on the issue, personally I think the biggest problem is that the government wasn’t stricter on regularly reviewing the contract and testing the market, rather than allowing the Green Shed some sort of believed tenure for what is a government (taxpayer) funded service.

Wasn’t it a $1 contract though? So ACT Government wasn’t making anything or losing anything on it – it was more an opportunity cost.

David Riddell10:49 am 23 Apr 24

Seems to be more of a licence than your traditional contract. Territory provided the facilities and assigned salvaging rights with conditions attached and the operator provides the labour with the funding sourced through the sale of the items collected by the operator.

I suspect part of the issue Chewy around ‘believed tenure’ probably arose due to COVID – I assume we will see more detail in the audit, but I’d seen comments suggesting they’ve had multiple short term extensions in recent years, which would suggest the responsible part of Government kept putting it off (when they shouldn’t) – but potentially at least partially understandably so.

WOFTAM indeed. This “audit” should identify hollistic and sustainable outcomes with a view to vertical integration as well.

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