A complaint that Environment Waikato failed to properly assess a possum control contract bid from Oparau farmer Robbie Graham has not been upheld by the chief ombudsman Beverley Wakem.
Mr Graham’s consortium was one of two bidders for possum control work on a 4500-hectare block near Mt Pirongia.
He complained after EW rejected his tender because parts of the bid were deficient and returned to him an unopened envelope containing the price for the work.
In a letter to EW chief executive Bob Laing, Ms Wakem provided EW with extracts from her response to Mr Graham. In these she said “it does not seem that the reasons provided…for rejecting your tender were trivial in nature” and that EW had given Mr Graham considerable feedback and encouraged him to attend a tenderers workshop to help him in future. Ms Wakem said EW was entitled to not open the price envelope for the reasons it gave and noted that ultimately it contained a bid higher than the successful tenderer.
Mr Graham had also complained that EW failed to disclose the successful tender price to him.
Mr Laing said EW awards pest control contracts taking into account factors such as the effectiveness of the proposed control method and price. The winning bid will not necessarily be the cheapest. EW’s past practice – as per its tender documents – has been to release the name of the successful bidder and the range of prices received. But EW would not identify which bidder submitted which price. This was designed to protect the commercial position of bidders.
In the case of the contract Mr Graham bid for there were only two bidders. EW’s past practice was not to disclose the price range in such circumstances as it would effectively make public the exact price submitted by Mr Graham’s rival, Mr Laing said.
However, Ms Wakem noted that part 5 of the tender document for the Mt Pirongia operation stated that all tenderers would receive the outcome of the tender, including prices tendered. She suggested EW could review the wording of this part of the tender document to avoid complaints similar to Mr Graham’s non-disclosure complaint in future.
Mr Laing said that since the case was raised EW had introduced a policy to release the successful contract price. “We have not wanted to hide anything previously but felt we needed to maintain some commercial confidentiality for bidders. However, since this case has arisen, we have decided to disclose the successful price. We are letting all bidders know this.”
Mr Laing said the chief ombudsman’s opinion followed an Audit New Zealand review confirming the integrity of EW’s pest control contracting processes.
“The chief ombudsman’s findings in this latest case further demonstrate the high standards applied by EW when letting pest control contracts.”