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Deniliquin Council defends decision to use out-of-town company

Deniliquin Council has used its Business Ethics Policy to defend its actions in hiring an out-of-town company.

ZOE MCMAUGH June 13, 2014 3:35am

Deniliquin Council general manager Des Bilske has used council’s Business Ethics Policy to defend its actions in hiring an out-of-town surveying company.

An Echuca-based business was hired by council to complete the first official boundary survey of the land housing the Peppin Heritage Centre and The Crossing Cafe in George St, Deniliquin, which is part owned by council.

Deniliquin surveying company Brian Mitsch & Associates queried council’s decision not to give it an opportunity to quote for the work.

Brian Mitsch employee Chris Mitsch said he was disappointed.

‘‘There are more than enough quality people in the town to do this work,’’ he said.

‘‘The Deniliquin Business Chamber is always saying we need to support local business, and people do, but sometimes they seem to just stop at shops. Local services like ours are businesses too.

‘‘Our mayor and councillors need to stand up for local businesses.’’

But Mr Bilske said the job was priced at well under $10,000, therefore a tender process was not required.

He said he could not release the name of the business council used for ‘‘commercial in confidence’’ reasons.

When questioned by the Pastoral Times as to why a Deniliquin-based business was not employed, Mr Bilske said council’s Business Ethics Policy ‘‘may have’’ been considered when awarding this particular job to the Echuca firm.

The policy, which was on public exhibition over the Christmas period and implemented by council earlier this year, sets a required standard and behaviour of council staff and councillors. It also extends to all tenderers, suppliers, contractors and consultants and their sub-contractors or employees.

‘‘The ethics policy identifies the responsibilities of both council purchasers and our suppliers,’’ Mr Bilske said.

‘‘One part of the policy is that you can’t abuse council in a public forum. You can’t take money from us on one hand and abuse us on the other.

‘‘Ethics is one thing that does impact on who we chose as a supplier and may have had an impact on this contract.’’

Mr Mitsch said council’s ethics policy was a gag on any local business or organisation.

‘‘So no one can say anything about council for fear we may not get any work,’’ he said.

‘‘Council has blocked themselves from any criticism.’’

Mr Bilske, who would not reveal the specifics of the situation, said for small projects, contractor reputation and availability was also a factor when awarding the job.

He said the Echuca firm had been employed by council on several occasions and was at the top of the list of its preferred contractors.

The GM said advertising of the project tender was not required under the Local Government Act.

Council is only required to advertise tenders if the project exceeds $150,000.

Projects of $50,000 or more require three written quotes on invitation.

Mr Bilske said council has a list of known companies, which he said were often preferenced relating to their standards and accreditation.

He said while council uses local and out-of-town businesses, the location of the contractor is irrelevant to the tender process.

The boundary survey at the Peppin Heritage Centre is the first to be completed for the land, which is part owned by council and part owned by the state government as crown land.

Mr Bilske said having the survey data would make any future changes or developments easier, including liquor licensing issues.

With other developments being carried out in the George St area, he said it was timely to have the survey completed now

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