Return to tender

Kate Withers

Member for Morwell Russell Northe has expressed his disbelief Latrobe Valley businesses have been excluded from tendering for the fit-out of a state government-led project in Traralgon.

The project, which is not advertised publicly, involves the fit-out for the ground floor of a vacant office building on the corner of the Princes Highway and Franklin Street, owned by government authority WorkSafe Victoria.

Titled “Worksafe Office Fit-Out for GF (April 2020)”, the project can be found on EstimateOne, an online noticeboard where commercial construction projects are listed and opened up to private tender.

It is listed with an estimated budget between $1 million and $1.5 million.

Mr Northe said several local builders had contacted him after being told by WorkSafe they were ineligible to to tender for the fit-out.

“If this is accurate … this makes an absolute mockery of the notion that locals are being supported through government-led projects,” Mr Northe told The Express.

“How on earth can a state government authority not even allow local builders or contractors to tender for this work and why has it not been advertised publicly?

“If this is a fair and just procurement policy then it needs to be amended urgently to give regard for the local community in which the works are actually occurring.

“I just cannot fathom that in a community that has endured economic downturn, has high unemployment and faces significant employment and economic challenges due to COVID-19, that no local business has been afforded the opportunity to quote or tender for state government work in its own backyard.

“It’s just insane.”

WorkSafe Victoria did not comment when asked why the project was not open to public tender. But a WorkSafe spokesperson said businesses tendering for the Traralgon fit-out were required under state government policy to employ a number of local sub-contractors.

“WorkSafe follows Victorian government guidelines for all project tenders,” the spokesperson said.

“As part of this tender process, the successful contractor is required to give local sub-contractors and suppliers the opportunity to bid for any work.”

The office of Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy did not respond to requests for comment.