University of Otago contract law specialist Prof Rex
Ahdar says criteria used to select home-based support providers
were probably broad enough to protect the Southern District
Health Board from a legal challenge.
The board is facing public criticism from its decision to
drop long-time provider Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO) from
a $5.5 million annual contract for home-based services for
Yesterday, a petition had gathered nearly 12,000 signatures
calling on the board to reinstate PSO and its regional
partner Disabilities Resource Centre Southland.
The board has insisted it will not revisit the decision to
choose just three providers for its new ''restorative''
service, to be phased in from March.
Prof Ahdar said PSO's best chance of being reinstated was
likely to be through a public outcry, rather than taking the
issue through the court.
''It's certainly a less expensive option and possibly [the]
more effective option.''
''[The criteria are] worded in a way that very much favours
[the board]. As they're allowed to do, of course,'' he said.
The board issued tenderers a list of 12 criteria by which the
contracts would be awarded.
''These evaluation criteria should be taken as a guide only.
They are not exhaustive and not in order of priority.
Weightings will be applied to these criteria. Southern DHB
will determine (at their sole discretion) how the evaluation
of any proposal will be undertaken,'' the evaluation criteria
Some tender documents spell out the actual weighting assigned
to each criterion, but that was not the case in the board's
''They've covered themselves very well,'' Prof Ahdar said.
''Basically, it's saying in a long-winded way, ultimately
it's up to us who we pick ...''
However, he emphasised he was not privy to all of the
information at PSO's disposal, which might reveal flaws in
Even if a court found in PSO's favour, it was likely to award
compensation, rather than initiate a process to have the
contract reinstated, he said.
A ''drastic'' decision would be to order a new tendering
process, Prof Ahdar said.
PSO chief executive Gillian Bremner confirmed PSO's concerns
about the process were wider than the evaluation criteria,
but she would not elaborate until after this week's board
meeting, where a decision would be made about whether to
pursue legal action.