A BALLARAT lawyer has called for an auditor-general investigation into the awarding of a 10-year Ballarat Aquatic Centre management contract.
Peter Byrne has written to the Auditor-General Des Pearson over what he described as a “number of serious issues”.
He said the awarding of the contract had failed to comply with Local Government Act provisions.
Ballarat City Council voted to award the YMCA the $5.87 million contract in April.
“The granting of a fixed 10-year contract which binds the next three councils is not in the best interest of Ballarat citizens,” Mr Byrne said.
“It is the wrong thing for a number of commercial reasons and is in breach of the best practice provisions contained in the Local Government Act.”
Mr Byrne said he had spoken with several other councils and pool managers in three other states and a normal contract term would be three-years, with an option of another three.
“This keeps operators on their toes and protects the council, avoids legal disputes and gives flexibility. It’s just plain common sense.”
Mr Byrne said his investigations had shown only two groups tendered for the contract, with other operators put off by the 10 year contract as being too commercially risky.
“The lack of competition has resulted in an annual fee of $580,000 which I am advised is excessive for a facility of this size. Multiply this over 10 years and it runs into hundreds and thousands of dollars.”
Mr Byrne said he had expressed previous concerns over the cleanliness of the Ballarat Aquatic Centre and a lack of proper financial controls. But the council’s chief executive officer Anthony Schinck said the contract was let in accordance with the Local Government Act, the council’s Procurement Policy and was overseen by the council’s Contract Review Committee.
“In addition, the tender process was independently audited and found to be compliant,” Mr Schinck said.
“In developing the project specification, council undertook significant research to identify best practice examples and innovative approaches to recreation centre management.
“There are other examples of 10-year contracts across the country.
“The terms of the contract include a profit share arrangement which means the centre did not cost residents any money last year and will return a profit in this year to council which can be reinvested into other programs and services.”