‘Archaic’ policy targeted

The most controversial aspects of Latrobe City Council’s new procurement policy could be scrapped.

A special meeting has been scheduled for 5.30pm tomorrow, where mayor Sharon Gibson will move a notice of motion which proposes to return some spending power to the chief executive and reduce delays on building projects.

If the motion is carried, the chief executive would be allowed to approve purchases of goods and services up to $150,000, rather than the $50,000 limit imposed as part of changes introduced in September last year.

The chief executive would again be allowed to authorise construction works worth $200,000 or less, up from $50,000 under the strict guidelines.

Under September’s changes, transactions over $50,000 had to go to tender.

The threshold will now be more than $200,000 for construction and $150,000 for goods and service, if the motion is successful.

The motion calls for the chief executive to approve total variations for a contract up to $200,000, a stark contrast to the tightened policy, which required all variations more than $5000 to be considered at a council meeting.

It was one of the most criticised aspects of the policy by the building community, with the Civil Contractors Federation labelling it “archaic” with the potential to stymie public infrastructure projects in the Latrobe Valley.

The new variation rules resulted in a month-long delay to road works on Morwell’s Kelly Street.

CCF chief executive John Stewart said if carried, the motion would be a “very positive move”.

“Unfortunately the decision has been made on the back of tens of thousands of dollars of costs to ratepayers to follow through with what we considered a ridiculous decision in the first place,” he said.

“Many of the contractors have been affected by the delays in decision-making and they have passed those costs onto council.

“The staff of Latrobe City must be considerably relieved to return to a situation where decision-making powers aren’t overarched by an unworkable procurement policy.”

In November, Cr Dale Harriman, one of the authors of the criticised policy, moved to compromise, by slightly increasing the chief executive’s variation approval threshold to $15,000 and allowing more expensive variations to go to a section 86 committee, rather than waiting for a fortnightly council meeting.

An independent audit of the policy, also approved in November, is yet to begin.