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Local government transparency reform needed, says CCF WA

1 Aug 2022 5:04 PM | Alice Graham (Administrator)

(CORRECTION: This release, and the report, have been amended to reflect revised scores for the City of Bayswater and City of Swan. CCF WA apologises to these councils for the errors. The report now recognises these councils' high level of transparency in tender evaluation.)

A new report from WA’s peak civil construction body highlights the wide disparity in transparency by local governments when awarding works tenders, and recommends changes to bring WA into line with other states.

The Civil Contractors Federation WA report, Transparency in Western Australian local government tender evaluation, analysed the tender assessments, as published in council minutes and supporting documentation, of 29 of Western Australia’s largest metropolitan and regional councils.

The report awarded a Tendering Transparency Score out of 10 to each council, with points awarded for:

  • Publishing the names of companies that tendered and the prices they submitted
  • Publishing each bidder’s scores or ranking against price and non-price assessment criteria.
  • Explaining how the scores were determined, and any other relevant information about how or why the successful tenderer was chosen.

One council, the City of Joondalup, scored a perfect ‘10’ by providing all of the information above, with a detailed summary describing the tender evaluation process and how decisions were made.

The Bayswater, Cockburn, Gosnells, Kalamunda, Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Perth, Rockingham, Swan, Wanneroo, and Dardanup councils also achieved a ‘pass’ mark of 5 or more.

Many councils surveyed in the report relied on the commercial-in-confidence provisions of the WA Local Government Act 1995 as justification for suppressing information.

CCF WA CEO Andy Graham said the WA legislation was out of step with local government laws in other states.

“The law in other states puts the onus on councils to explain why they have decided not to publish tender assessments,” Mr Graham said.

“Generally, other states only allow suppression where councils can show issues with confidential financial information or trade secrets.

“The South Australian legislation expressly bars councils from preventing disclosure of any reasons adopted by the council as to why a successful tenderer has been selected.

“We’ve recommended to the State Government that it replace the current blanket commercial-in-confidence provision with a modernised provision more in line with community expectations and with the practice in other states.

“The law in other states recognises that the very ‘local’ nature of local government procurement can make it more susceptible to probity issues and conflicts of interest, and therefore accountability and transparency are perhaps even more important than in other levels of government.

“Transparency of decision-making is of course a good thing in itself, but there are broader benefits too.

“We know that contractors highly value the feedback provided by published evaluations. They really appreciate getting a clear picture of where their submission was strong and where it wasn’t, and can use that feedback to improve their submission next time.

“For councils, this means that not only will they get a higher standard of submissions, but they will get more submissions, because there’s no doubt that contractors prefer to work for councils who are open and transparent.

“It’s even more important right now, with so much demand for construction work, that councils position themselves as a client of choice.”

Transparency in Western Australian local government tender evaluation is available for download online here. 

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