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One out of two ain’t bad

Clarence Valley Council’s plan to sell eight of its properties to fund construction of the proposed depot at South Grafton and rationalise its operations experienced a hiccup at the April council meeting. At the February meeting, following the receipt of five expressions of interest, councillors decided to “proceed to selective tendering with First National Ford & Dougherty and McKimms Real Estate”; however, First National was late submitting its tender. At 4.02pm on March 31, the council’s corporate director, Ashley Lindsay, sent First National an email seeking confirmation that the tender had not been submitted. Eight minutes later, First National advised him that the submission had been placed in the council’s tender box after the 3pm deadline. Subsequently, CCTV footage confirmed that the tender was submitted at 3.16pm. The report to council states that, as a result, the tender “cannot be considered by Council as part of this tender”. At the April council meeting, councillors Andrew Baker and Karen Toms were concerned that First National’s tender had, in fact, been considered during the tender panel’s assessment of McKimm’s tender, which was found to be “less than an ideal” because the majority of its marketing focus was aimed at the Clarence Valley, “with limited exposure to the broader commercial property market”. Councillors ultimately decided to delegate authority to general manger Scott Greensill, to negotiate with McKimms and First National, “with a view to entering into a contract with the firm that demonstrates best its capacity to market the properties to a broad market of potential buyers, which will provide Council the best opportunity to maximise … [the] return on each property sale”. Councillor Baker asked if it was acceptable to compare the two tenders and then “introduce … parts of the non complying tender in competition with a complying tender? …Is that proper? …It certainly doesn’t seem to be to me.” Corporate director Ashley Lindsay said: “We have a right to negotiate with anyone …if council resolves to do that. “…The formal assessment of the tender didn’t include the First National submission. “It wasn’t assessed because it was received late and [as a result] it didn’t comply; but for comparative purposes – because we’d been through the selective tender process – we reviewed it.” Mr Greensill said “we’ll go out and talk to both of them”. “…We are dealing with commercial real estate, which might have interest far beyond our local area,” he said. “We are not prepared to accept the one valid tender … so we’ll clean that slate; we still have two we are prepared to talk to; let’s see who comes up the best.” Councillor Toms said she concurred with Cr Baker, but she wondered what the difference was between assessing and reviewing the tenders. Mr Greensill said only McKimms’ submission was assessed and that the First National submission “couldn’t be considered because it wasn’t received”. Cr Toms: “But Mr Lindsay says it was reviewed for comparative purposes.” Mayor Richie Williamson said, “well, they were his words” and called for debate. Councillor Baker suggested it would be better to contact all five agents and give them 14 days to respond, “to make it competitive and concise”. Councillor Toms said the process had “muddied the waters”, and wondered what would have happened if both tenders had been competitively appraised. In his right of reply, as the mover of the officer’s recommendation, Cr Williamson said: “The waters are not muddy: this is due and proper process. “We are entitled to make a decision … with the best interest of ratepayers in mind; our duty is to get best value for money.” Councillors Baker and Toms voted against the motion; Cr McKenna declared an interest and Cr Howe had left the meeting for personal reasons. The local Government (General) Regulation 2005 states that a “council must not consider a tender that is not submitted to the council by the deadline for the closing of tenders”; however, it does not say much more.