Home Business Software NSW councils slammed for IT deals sans tenders

NSW councils slammed for IT deals sans tenders

The head of a technology company in NSW has questioned why contracts for IT deals with local councils have been awarded to a Queensland company without the proper tender process being gone through as per existing law.

Richard Fiddis, (seen right, below) the managing director of Civica International, was referring to the decision by multiple NSW councils to negotiate with the Queensland-based TechnologyOne directly, rather than go to tender.

A report in Fairfax Media publications last month said that three amalgamated councils in NSW had decided late last year to negotiate directly with TechnologyOne.

The three councils in question are Georges River (comprising Hurstville and Kogarah), Inner West (comprising  Leichhardt, Marrickville and Ashfield) and Cumberland (comprising Holroyd, Auburn and Parramatta).

One of the reasons advanced by TechnologyOne to Fairfax for using its systems across the amalgamated councils was that it was more of an upgrade as the councils in question were already using its systems. The company's executive chairman, Adrian Di Marco, told Fairfax, "we are by far the dominant player".

But Fiddis pointed out that Civica systems were being used in Kogarah, Ashfield (along with software from Pitney Bowes and HP) and Holroyd. Additionally, in Marrickville, the systems were a mix from his company (for DA tracking), TechnologyOne (for financials) and Frontier Software (for HR and payroll).

civica stuff

He said the argument about extending TechnologyOne's systems across the amalgamated council could be equally applied to Civica.

"We are not a small player," Fiddis told iTWire. "Civica Local Government has been helping local authority teams within Australia and New Zealand deliver improved services for more than 30 years. Civica software is installed in almost 1 in 2 local councils (more than 300 councils) across Australia."

He said the excuse that time would be consumed if the software needs of the councils were put out to tender was just that: an excuse. "These systems are long-term investments and there are systems already in place which are running things competently," Fiddis said. "Given that councils are going to use a system for at least a decade, these decisions should not be rushed."

fiddis bigHe said Civica did not limit any organisation to running just its own software; if any third-party products were preferred for particular functions, Civica always co-operated in integrating these solutions. The relationship that any provider had with a council to which it supplied software did not end with a sale; there was ongoing support, both technical and otherwise.

Fiddis said he had come to know of the councils' intentions when a report of the Inner West Council came to his notice. Prepared by Peter Gainsford, director, corporate services, and authorised by Rik Hart, interim general manager, it said: "The purpose of this report is to seek endorsement for a consolidated computer software/hardware platform for the Inner West Council and to delegate approval to the Interim General Manager to negotiate a contract with TechnologyOne."

NSW law requires councils to call for tenders for contracts costing more than $150,000 unless there are special reasons.

The report cited the following as extenuating reasons for not going to tender:

  • The amalgamation of the three former councils;
  • The need to have a consolidated ICT system as a matter of priority in order to progress the integration of services across Council;
  • There are only two main service providers in the industry and TechnologyOne capabilities are already well established within two of the three former councils;
  • The tender process would add a significant and unreasonable delay in consolidating ICT systems; and
  • The benefit to Council by partnering with a TechnologyOne solution in providing long-term benefits to the Council and its community.

Asked for comment, David Shoebridge, Greens MP in the NSW Legislative Council, told iTWire: "About the only winners from the state government's unpopular forced council mergers are the IT contractors who stand to benefit very nicely from reworking the merged councils' IT systems.

"With contracts valued at more than $1 million, it is extraordinary that the new super-sized councils aren't putting them out to tender. The suggestion that has come from the Premier's Department that there is only one player in the local government IT sector is plain misleading.

Shoebridge said it was "particularly troubling to see the NSW Government pushing the commercial interests of a company like TechnologyOne when that company has handed more than $150,000 in donations to Liberal party branches around the country".

"Residents and ratepayers deserve value for money when their local councils are tendering for work. We know from bitter experience that one-on-one backroom deals rarely
give value for money. There needs to be a public tender process."

He said that it was not just residents who deserved an open tender process, but also the other commercial players in the IT industry.

"The Greens firmly believe that government contracts, whether local, state or federal, need to be awarded on merit and after robust and transparent assessment," Shoebridge said.

In the Fairfax story, mention had been made of the donations made by Di Marco to the Queensland Liberal Party; he brushed this off saying that suggesting donations to a party in one state would influence local government decisions in another state was drawing a long bow.

For the record, iTWire asked Fiddis if Civica had made political donations to any party. He had a single word in reply: "No."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.