Call to shine a light on contract

Graham Wells wants to know why his company lost the Festival of Lights contract.
Graham Wells wants to know why his company lost the Festival of Lights contract.

Jilted contractor Graham Wells is continuing his fight to find out why a Wellington company pipped his to install the TSB Bank Festival of the Lights.

But New Plymouth District Council chief executive Barbara McKerrow can't give him the answers he wants and is confident the decision followed proper procedure.

The battle of the lights began in July when the contract to install the iconic festival's lights was awarded to Wellington company MJF Lighting, despite New Plymouth-based Wells Instrument and Electrical having held the contract for nine years and putting in a bid $26,100 cheaper.

The decision sparked a public outcry at the council's procurement policy which did not favour locally-based companies. Mr Wells said he still didn't know why his tender lost and would continue pursuing the council for answers.

"For the good of our community and also the integrity of NPDC's procurement and tendering regime can be upheld, we intend to continue to seek clarification."

At this stage no lawyers have been involved but Mr Wells isn't averse to calling them in, havingtaken legal action to stop a bottle shop opening near his business last year.

Mr Wells said it was up to the council to clarify the matter as ratepayers could end up paying more for jobs if contractors were not comfortable with the tendering process the council followed.

"It is quite likely that some contractors could decide not to tender for council contracts if they feel that their tender submissions will not be appropriately evaluated. This could possibly undermine the whole tender process and drive pricing up," Mr Wells said.

Mrs McKerrow said she regretted that Mr Wells was not happy with the decision, but after personally reviewing the tendering process she was confident it had been managed professionally.

While Wells' tender was cheaper when the other weighted attributes were taken into account, MJF Lighting gained a higher overall rating but she was not able to tell Mr Wells exactly why.

"A professional responsibility we have in this is to be fair to all of the companies who tendered," Mrs McKerrow said.

"That means we must respect their right to confidentiality around commercially sensitive information and we are not at liberty to answer every question that a competitor may wish to ask about the decision made."

Taranaki Daily News