Note: As this story unfolds there is no question that receivers of supposed local Govt. services are the one who stump up and are usually required to shut up! The more roils out the more we see evidence that accountability and the lack of it is the issue. Too much is being invested in achieving far too little and its about time that it stops.
There is more to the story in Glenorchy Council tender drama
Greg Barns, Mercury October 30, 2017 1:00am
One feels for Peter Brooks. The general manager of the Glenorchy City Council has been subjected to a relentless campaign designed to paint him as a person with little integrity. As is often the case with such campaigns the truth can be very different indeed.
Only a fortnight ago Mr Brooks and a company chaired by former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett made front page news
On October 17 the Mercury reported Auditor-General Rod Whitehead had delivered a report in which he expressed concern about the fact the engagement by Mr Brooks and the council of CT Management, a company specialising in local government change management services, without going to tender, "lacked transparency" and failed to comply with the Local Government Act and council's code for procurement.
The value of the work is said to be just over $1 million.
The Auditor-General said there was evidence of splitting contracts so they were under the amounts of $250,000 and $100,000 respectively — the amounts specified in the Local Government Act and the Council's Code as being when tender provisions operate.
The report was great news for former Glenorchy mayor Kristy Johnston, a populist politician, and her friend in government, Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein.
What Ms Johnston and the critics of Mr Brooks and CT Management have not said is that in January councillors received legal advice from a senior member of the Tasmanian Bar, Bruce McTaggart SC, that took a different view of the council's arrangement with CT Management.
Mr McTaggart was asked to advise on whether the council's engagement of CT Management in 2015-16, which was done without tender, and which resulted in the latter being paid $445,515.84 for work done, was compliant with provisions of relevant codes and legislation.
Mr McTaggart's very thorough advice concluded that the splitting of work, heavily criticised by the Auditor-General, was in fact justified. This is because each piece of work done by CT Management was for a "totally different scope of works".
In fact, because the council had resolved to accept the work CT Management was doing and going to do, it would "not have been reasonable" for Mr Brooks to have wasted ratepayer funds on tenders.
The council did not have to reveal the contracts with CT Management in its 2015-16 annual report, Mr McTaggart concluded, because none of the contracts exceeded $100,000. And, he concluded "engagement of CTMG during the 2015/16 financial year were complaint with public tender requirements" under relevant legislation.
Mr McTaggart's advice paints a different picture of the CT Management issue and involvement of Mr Brooks.
While the Auditor-General might take a different view it does not mean he is necessarily correct. Tendering processes and whether there is a need to tender are often issues about which there are varying opinions because the rules provide a fair degree of discretion.
Perhaps those who are gunning for Mr Brooks, and it seems Mr Kennett indirectly, should examine all the facts and understand the regulatory regimes driving tender processes.
If they did and were able to put aside their prejudices then a more nuanced and considered view of the Glenorchy council mess would emerge.
There is another aspect that should trouble anyone with an interest in democracy.
That is the decision by Mr Gutwein to indicate new elections for councillors would be on January 16. To hold an election in the middle of the holiday season where there may be a number of new candidates is undemocratic.
Speaking of elections, this Saturday the Legislative Council seat of Pembroke is up for grabs. Hans Willink, a genuine liberal, is running. Mr Willink stands for open markets, small government and social liberalism.
He is a rare breed in this community where big government and social conservatism go hand in glove.
If you support a reduction in the scope of government activity, a preparedness to stand up to lobby groups, and policymaking based on evidence, not prejudice and fear, then Mr Willink is the candidate you should support.
Greg Barns is a human rights lawyer. He has advised state and federal Liberal governments.
Glenorchy aldermen set to learn their resignation fate
SIMEON THOMAS-WILSON, Mercury October 23, 2017 10:21pm
THE future of the suspended Glenorchy aldermen who attempted to resign last week is set to be known on Tuesday.
Tasmanian Electoral Commissioner Andrew Hawkey will make an announcement regarding the eligibility of the seven Glenorchy aldermen to resign from their positions before they are sacked, should legislation introduced by the Government enabling it do to do so get through Parliament.
Following the move by Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein, seven Glenorchy aldermen — Steve King, Jenny Branch-Allen, Harry Quick, Christine Lucas, David Pearce, Stuart Slade and Haydyn Nielsen — all submitted their resignations to the council.
But Director of Local Government Alex Tay said they couldn't resign.
In response to a joint statement issued by six of the seven on Sunday, Glenorchy Commissioner Sue Smith said they had not been denied the right to resign, rather the council had to get legal advice as to what impact a mass resignation would have regarding a potential by-election.
Mr King, Ms Branch-Allen and Mr Slade said council staff only forwarded their resignations to Mr Hawkey when they engaged the services of a barrister to pursue their cases for resignation.
Mr Slade, a former mayor of Glenorchy, said he was "staggered" by the response from Mr Tay and council staff.
"We are confident in the legal advice we got," he said.