Tradies banking on Perle payout
NINE months since the collapse of State Government building contractor Perle Constructions and there's finally hope on the horizon for Coffs Harbour's out-of-pocket sub-contractors, owed $1.6 million.
Local creditors are confident a NSW Internal Audit Bureau investigation, which has been launched, will prove there was negligence by Housing NSW in awarding Keneally Government BER stimulus package tenders to the failed company.
If that's proven, the current government will have an onus to reimburse the builders for unpaid work on three Coffs Harbour public housing unit blocks, including the stalled Harbour Dr development.
The matter has also been referred to ICAC and the Auditor-General by Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser.
The Audit Bureau investigation comes following revelations the Harbour Dr site and two other unfinished Perle developments in Wollongong have this year cost taxpayers $1.35 million ($150,000/month) for around-the-clock security patrols, and temporary accommodation costs for 48 families waiting to occupy the unfinished public housing units.
Coffs Harbour creditors' spokesman Warren Nix says the sub-contractors are looking forward to the inquiry being dealt with in a timely manner.
"Negligence will be proven in the process of awarding those contracts to Perle and the government will have to pay the subbies' outstanding invoices," he said.
"Unless the government pays what's owed here in Coffs Harbour, we will keep the Harbour Dr site locked up."
Individual Coffs Harbour trade companies have lost up to $300,000 and stand to receive just five cents in the dollar from Perle's administrator.
After weighing up all the paperwork, Mr Fraser maintains the department was negligent.
"I welcome the inquiry; as far as I am concerned it's good news in moving the matter forward and hopefully seeing the sub-contractors paid what they are owed," Mr Fraser said.
"If negligence is proven, where it goes from there is dependent on what is found, but what is certain is we have an obligation to pick up the mess the Labor government has left us."
In Parliament, Finance Minister Greg Pearce said Perle went into liquidation while completing $23 million in government projects.
"In relation to Perle, I am not confident that the tenders awarded by Housing NSW to Perle were judicious," he said.
"The investigation will consider the adequacy of financial assessments undertaken, whether appropriate procurement processes were followed, and the monitoring of the performance of Perle during the conduct of the contracts."
He said companies such as Perle could not handle the volume of work and the completion timeframes were unrealistic.