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Thursday, December 2, 2021

17 months on: are we any closer?

Today is May 1: it marks Month 17 since Murrindindi Shire CEO Craig Lloyd started with the Council. Is the Murrindindi Council any closer to having a new advertising procurement practice that is fair, and open to public scrutiny?

It is 6½-YEARS since Murrindindi Shire Council last put its advertising procurement out to tender. The tender in 2012 was awarded to a company known as Alexandra Newspapers Pty Ltd, which is actually run by a well-to-do family from Whittlesea-Wallan. That company runs the low-readership Standard and Chronicle newspapers. They operate paid-circulation newspapers, and online content behind a paywall seen by only a few.

That 6½ years does not include the aborted attempt by Murrindindi Council in March at calling tenders. The tender paperwork was so unfair and poorly constructed that even Council withdrew the process within days.

The Local Government Department says: “Councils enter into contracts for a range of goods, services and works needed to deliver council services and infrastructure.

The Local Government Department says: “It is essential that councils are achieving value for money for the community when carrying out procurement activities.

The Local Government Department says: “Under the Local Government Act 1989, councils must use resources efficiently and effectively and provide services in accordance with best-value principles to meet the needs of the local community, and improve the quality of life in the local community.

The Local Government Department says: “Councils must also carry out all procurement activities in accordance with their procurement policies, and the public tender requirements in the Act.” Source: https://www.localgovernment.vic.gov.au/strengthening-councils/procurement

Councils must ensure they are getting value for money for the ratepayers’ dollar. Yet Murrindindi Council’s aborted tender document said that the evaluation criteria weighting was only 5 per cent in respect to “readership and reach of publication within community”. Dindi Media, publisher of The Local Paper, said the tender was grossly unfair and discriminatory. We refused to participate.

The Council obviously agreed with us. Within days, the Council withdrew the entire tender process. So in May 2019, Murrindindi Council is still locked in with its chummy 6½-year arrangement with Alexandra Newspapers Pty Ltd.

Six-and-half years on, and 17 months on, it is time for some ‘best practice’ and fair competition. Or as the Victorian Local Government Best Practice Procurement Guidelines state: “All prospective suppliers/vendors must be treated (and be seen to be treated) fairly in an open and transparent manner.”