Chief auditor asked to look at process

Southland disAbility Enterprises announced to their workers today that it is likely they will...
Southland disAbility Enterprises. Photo: Abbey Palmer
An Invercargill recycling company has requested a formal investigation into a controversial waste management tender contract.

A letter, leaked to Otago Daily Times, showed a lawyer representing Southland disAbility Enterprises (SDE) has asked the Office of the Auditor-general to initiate an inquiry in respect of WasteNet Southland's request for proposal (RFP) for the recyclable acceptance services contract.

WasteNet is a joint venture between the Invercargill City Council, Gore District Council, and Southland District Council.

The letter claims the request was not authorised by the Invercargill City Council or the Gore District Council.

"We have spoken to some councillors about this and they have confirmed that they did not authorise the issue of the RFP and they expected that they would approve the RFP before it was issued," the letter said.

"The failure by the Invercargill City Council and Gore District Council to authorise the release of the RFP is significant."

The notice of dispute sent to the Invercargill council by Gore and Southland councils also was challenged by the lawyer.

According to the letter, the ICC did not need to participate in the dispute resolution process.

"The Invercargill City Council is not bound by the dispute resolution process because Contract 850 is not covered by the WasteNet Joint Waste Management Agreement and in any event there cannot be a dispute about an RFP that the three councils did not authorise," the letter said.

The Auditor-general's office confirmed it had received a request to inquire into the tender process for waste management/recycling in Southland.

It was considering the next steps.

Invercargill City Council, Gore District Council, and Southland District Council declined to comment "given the Office of the Auditor-general's inquiry is ongoing and the RFP is still live."

The request for an investigation follows a heated Invercargill City Council meeting earlier this week.

Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt then closed a council meeting about the issue before it officially began.

His action caused an uproar from some of his fellow councillors.

However, issues with the tender process began much earlier.

In 2011, SDE - a company which employs 80 people with disabilities - signed an eight-year contract with WasteNet to sort the recyclable at its Invercargill plant. In 2018, the parties commenced negotiations to renew the contract, but SDE requested an increased payment for the balance of the term ending June 30.

In December, WasteNet announced it would not renew the contract with SDE and put it out for tender.

In June 2019, Southland district and Gore district councils both voted to adopt the WasteNet recommendation, the Invercargill City Council went against it in a split vote decided by the casting vote of Sir Tim.

After discussion, Wastenet decided to extend the contract for 12 months.

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