Council slow to fix footpath double payments

By Bernard Orsman

Transport officers at Auckland City Council did nothing for nearly five years to correct double payments on two big footpath contracts, official documents show.

It was not until June 15 this year that the council agreed on a rebate with John Fillmore Contractors for paying twice for some footpath renewal work. That was only 15 days before the expiry of the $100 million contracts on June 30.

Since 2004, John Fillmore Contractors has been paid twice for footpath and kerb-and-channel work that overlaps.

Documents obtained by the Herald under the Official Information Act show that John Fillmore Contractors agreed to pay the first rebate of $14,943.84 for overlap work in June. The rebate was for 1528m of kerb-and-channel work on Tamaki Drive at a rate of $9.78 a metre. There are no documents to explain how the rebate came about at the eleventh hour.

Asked why the council sought a rebate for Tamaki Drive and no other overlap work in five years, transport delivery manager Tim Lott said the amount of overlapping kerb-and-channel and footpath work was "pretty insignificant".

"The decisions that we have made have been on a sound commercial basis ... I'm here to deliver value for the ratepayer," Mr Lott said.

When the Herald revealed the overlap flaw in the council's footpath contracts last month, Mayor John Banks said the issue was "so serious and damaging to the reputation of the council, its officers and my stewardship" that he ordered an inquiry by engineer Warren Warfield.

Among the issues being investigated is the extent and size of the overlap issue. Mr Warfield has completed his report, which is due to be released once Mr Banks and officers have read and absorbed its findings.

The documents include a report by quantity surveyor Ian Cole, of construction cost consultants Abcon Williams. The report said John Fillmore Contractors had a standard rate for various kerb-and-channel work, but had not charged the council for work above this rate.

Mr Cole said a standard rate was not unreasonable and "it would certainly not have been the calculated intention at any time for John Fillmore Contracting Ltd to have 'charged twice' for the element of work in question".

Mr Cole did not address the intent of council officers in approving double payments of ratepayers' money.

The Warfield report is separate from an inquiry by the Auditor-General into the management of the council's footpath contracts after a series of revelations by the Herald over a six-month investigation.

Two $20 million contracts awarded to John Fillmore Contractors this year include a clause to ensure there is only one payment when work overlaps.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 21 Apr 2014 00:40:36 Processing Time: 707ms