The future of an established surf school is in doubt after its tender application was pipped by new competition.
It’s put the entire tendering process under the spotlight, and mayor hopeful Cr Simon Richardson is calling for an internal investigation by the general manager, ‘to check that the process was appropriate and above reproach.’
He says he will also move an urgency motion to ‘increase the number of licences offered.’
Currently there are only four commercial licences and two personalised surf instructor spots available for operators to teach surfing in Byron Shire.
Cr Richardson also says the ‘degree of faith and trust in the system I once had, though always guarded, has now been severely eroded and I am hellbent on ensuring all aspects of our tender policy are reviewed to ensure every aspect is as accountable, transparent and supportive of rewarding great local practitioners.’
Another mayoral candidate, Cr Basil Cameron, told The Echo it is ‘important that councillors remain at arm’s length from the workings of the tender panel. I have contacted Mr Edwards to let him know that the tender process is to be reviewed and that he can also seek an external review if he is not satisfied. In the event that flaws are identified in the tender process, I will work to ensure that future tenders are fair and transparent.’
Additionally, long-time local and elite surfing instructor Steve Foreman also failed to renew his licence bid as a personalised surf instructor. He remained philosophical, however, about the outcome. ‘Fortunately for me this decision will not affect me financially as I have other employment,’ he told The Echo. ‘But I support Jayme’s cause.’
Mr Foreman’s coaching has helped many surfers, including Layne Beachley, reach professional levels.
After 18 years in the business and ten years in the shire, Jayme Edwards from Byron Bay Surf School says he is outraged by what he says is ‘stacking’ against local knowledge and a flawless safety record.
‘Council’s June 28 minutes clearly show the amount offered by the winning tenderers,’ he told The Echo.
‘I offered a fair market rate of $4,000 pa, which is based on the medium of Ballina and Tweed Shires’ market rates.’
In contrast, Mojosurf offered Council $13,750, far above other winning tenderers. Ian Lennie from Mojosurf told The Echo he agreed the tender process needs addressing, and was surprised to learn that Mojosurf had tendered much more than the other schools.
‘We worked with fellow surf school operators Kool Kats when they were rejected by Ballina Council,’ he said.
He also claims Mojosurf has operated in the shire for seven years.
Last Friday, The Echo lodged a GIPA (Government Information Public Access) to confirm the score-card results by the tender panel for both successful and unsuccesful applicants.
It has also been revealed that unsuccessful tenderers are subjected to a Byron Council-specific ‘gag order,’ which attempts to prevent them going to the media or even seeking advice as to why their tender was not successful.
In conrast, NSW government guidelines state that councils ‘may’ choose to debrief unsuccessful tenderers on request.
In the letter sent to Mr Edwards which rejects his tender bid, it reads ‘Under Council’s “Rights of unsuccessful Tenderers” policy, unsuccessful tenderers are not entitled to (1) request reasons for the choice of the successful tenderers; or (2) otherwise seek to challenge or question the validity of the determination made by Council… Tenderers must not undertake any publicity activities with any part of the media in relation to the tender or the contract without the prior consent of Council, including consent on the form and content of any such publicity.’
Mojosurf local: mayor
Outgoing mayor Jan Barham told The Echo that Council can only approve or reject the recommendation from the tender panel which is determined on criteria that Council has approved.
‘The reality is that Mojosurf is also local; they have a property at Skinners Shoot.
‘It is unfortunate that a long-term local operator with a good record has missed out. It’s a bit different to the market policy because the concern there is that a manager could take over the markets and change the culture.
‘At least with the surf schools, it’s about individual operators and how they meet the tender criteria, and yes unfortunately price is one of the criteria and it may have been that two operators might be equal on most of the criteria and then price makes the difference.’
She added it is defined by the limited number of licences that are allowed as per the policy.
Don Page’s media advisor Jonathan Porter told The Echo, ‘Ultimately it is a matter for councils to determine appropriate criteria for the assessment of a tender.
‘While it is open to councils to award tenders on the basis of local preference, they should only do so if there is a formal local preference policy in place.
‘The Division of Local Government’s tendering guidelines say that such policies should be based on sound reasoning, as well as outlining the circumstances in which the council would bring the policy into effect.
‘For example, where an additional cost would be incurred by the council in implementing its local preference policy, the maximum amount or percentage of that additional cost should be specified and the particular circumstances in which the amount should also be acceptable to the local community.
‘The Division of Local Government’s tendering guidelines also suggest that at the conclusion of the tender process, councils may choose to debrief unsuccessful tenderers on request but that debriefings should focus on assisting tenderers to improve future tenders and explain how the tender performed against the evaluation criteria.’
Acting general manager Ray Darney told The Echo that while tender applicants cannot appeal a decision, Council would review this tender process.
‘I met with one of the unsuccessful applicants on July 20.
‘I agreed to a review of the tender process, and evaluation of selection criteria.
‘This will be undertaken by an independent person,’ he said.