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Poor process pursued in clock project


An independent review of Carterton District Council’s clocktower project has found several issues, despite a previous internal report stating otherwise.

The project, which involved the earthquake-strengthening and painting of Carterton’s town clock, was completed last year and cost $667,266 – a far cry from the project’s original 2017 budget of $277k.

In May last year, Carterton District Council’s [CDC] Audit and Risk Committee discussed an internal project review by Paul Crimp, who was the council’s interim corporate services manager.

His review stated: “It is somewhat difficult to identify any recommendations in regard to the procurement process as the writer believes the process was robust and undertaken to a good standard.”

At the time, Carterton residents Mike Ashby and John Wren said the reports tabled were “a masterclass in seeming misdirection, obfuscation leading to confusion, and failure to see a pattern of systemic accounting and project management process failures”.

Councillors had requested an independent review of the clocktower project.

The review by Calibre Consulting had now been completed, and councillors were to discuss the findings yesterday.

In its report, Calibre Consulting disagreed with the results of the internal review and identified several recommendations that would improve the delivery of future projects.

CDC chief executive Geoff Hamilton said the council would take the findings of both reviews seriously.

“While there are some differences between professional advisers, council is interested in the findings from both perspectives, which is why Audit and Risk sought the second independent review.

“Officers will now take the findings from both reviews and apply them to improve our approach to future projects.”

One of the main failings of the project, as identified by Calibre Consulting, was a “lack of upfront planning and appreciation of the inherent risks in the project”.

They said this resulted in the lowest-priced contractor being selected rather than having a process that could “critically assess and select a contractor that had the ability to complete the work required”.

Calibre Consulting also found that despite project variations and delays, “the final cost of the physical strengthening works was likely to have been only marginally above a realistic budget if it had been scoped correctly at the outset”.

The construction contract was awarded to a local company in June 2018 and was beneath the approved budget.

However, delays happened when it was realised that groundwater levels would be high during the winter period, making excavation and construction of the foundations difficult and expensive.

This delay, in turn, caused further delays as a result of subcontractor rescheduling.

Work did not begin until March 2019 and had only just started when the contractor removed some internal panels and found a problem with reinforcing corrosion and concrete spalling.

A specialist subcontractor completed the concrete repairs before the contractor resumed work on the strengthening with the installation of steel bracing.

However, work was again delayed as the contractor could not provide a satisfactory construction methodology for ensuring that the tower would remain stable when the foundations were exposed to a depth of 1.8 metres.

In December 2019, CDC terminated the contract because of “slow/non-response to contract instructions”, among other response issues.

Another local contractor was appointed to the project.

“The construction work had already expended much of the approved budget, and the estimated cost to complete this work on the tower was $350,000, bringing the forecast cost for strengthening to $560,000,” Calibre Consulting said.

Practical completion of the project was issued in January 2021.

Calibre Consulting identified 16 issues with the project’s process, including poor record-keeping and poor project control.

Among their eight recommendations were that the council should: train staff and management in basic project management and procurement procedures, have a robust central filing system and reporting process, and develop a business case procedure for all projects. — NZLDR

  • Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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