Councillors dump on toilet spending

ONE of these toilets would have saved ratepayers $50,000.

Both met all of Newcastle City Council’s performance requirements, but the council thinks the more expensive loo was better ‘‘value for money’’.

The tender for the toilet block, which will cost ratepayers $252,000 and replace the infamous ‘‘demon dunny’’ in Scott Street, has created a stink among councillors.

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The Newcastle Herald has been told that several councillors left a recent confidential meeting fuming after being told the organisation could be sued if it accepted the cheaper tender.

Speaking anonymously because specific details are supposed to be commercial-in-confidence, councillors said they had ‘‘serious concerns’’ about the probity of the entire tender process.

The Herald has seen tender documents for the toilet block that show the winning tender was favoured for the job on the basis of ‘‘previous experience’’.

The losing tenderer is an Australian business with 30 years’ experience installing outdoor products. It proposed to install a toilet used widely in New Zealand.

The criteria the council considered when assessing the toilet block – known as a tender matrix – placed a relatively heavy weighting of 20per cent on the tenderer’s ‘‘previous experience’’, compared with a 30per cent weighting for price.

When the council considered tenders for the architectural design of the city’s $21million art gallery redevelopment, previous experience was worth only 7per cent of the total matrix.

The council said that while previous experience was a specific criterion in the art gallery tender process, it was also built into two other criteria that assessed bidders’ sustainability and technical resources.

But councillors said questions about the toilet block tender remained unanswered.

‘‘It doesn’t explain why previous experience is even relevant when we’re asking them to build a pre-fabricated toilet block and plonk it down,’’ one councillor said.

‘‘And it doesn’t take into account that there are other criteria in that matrix for the toilet block designed to ensure that the job meets our specifications and is of good quality.

‘‘Some companies get a lot of work for councils, but how do others get experience if we won’t give it to them?’’

When councillors attempted to approve the cheaper tender during a confidential meeting earlier this month, they were told that going against the tender recommended by the tender matrix would expose the organisation to legal action.

COMPARISON SHOP

WHAT OTHER TOILETS NEWCASTLE COUNCIL COULD BUY FOR $252,000

* A year’s hire of 105 fresh-water flush portable toilets with hand basins

* A four-bedroom manufactured home with two bathrooms and a deck

* A solid gold toilet, exhibited at last year’s 11th World Toilet Summit and Expo

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