A COUPLE of workers trying to be helpful to a ratepayer has resulted in Cockburn council banning the use of its staff for most private works.
An internal investigation into the incident has uncovered a long history of informality and under-quoting that has potentially cost the council thousands of dollars.
It will now perform private works only when there is a civic purpose, “such as providing a pram ramp for access to a shopping centre,” according to the report, which recommends an official formula to estimate costs for crossovers.
The probe had been triggered by resident Debbie Gibson complaining about two council workers laying a 22-metre driveway at her neighbour’s Hamilton Hill house for an on-the-spot quote of $200.
The pair had been repairing a small section of driveway at the Fluellen Way house, damaged when the council previously installed a concrete crossover. The owner asked if they could compact the entire driveway leading to her house at the rear of the strata complex.
According to the council the workers’ supervisor got an over-the-phone quote from a senior city officer and then completed the job in two hours.
Ms Gibson maintains the pair only phoned their supervisor after she rushed over to take photos.
“Why is this ratepayer getting special treatment?” she asks. “And $200 for that length of driveway is ridiculous.”
In the internal report obtained by the Herald, it’s stated the informal approach had led to a crossover being quoted for $1060, $236.12 less than what the official formula demands.
On private jobs it found labour rates had been quoted at $40, less than the $75 the council prefers to charge.
The staffer who provided the quote — who’s been using the same informal method for 17 years — had quoted the lower price because the workers were casuals.
The probe found there had been no discounting, conflict of interest or relationship between the Hamilton Hill house owner and council staff.
Ms Gibson had formerly asked the council to do her own driveway on her South Lake property, but was knocked back.
“As per our discussion, the City of Cockburn does not construct or install driveways,” customer services officer Caroline Nicholls had written to her. “We are happy to quote on concrete crossovers, but do not do driveways at all. You will need to engage the services of a private contractor to have the driveway quoted on and installed.”
The report’s author says Ms Gibson is free to “seek a review of the city’s responses by approaching the corruption and crime commission” but notes, “this does not seem to be a course of action that Ms Gibson wishes to pursue”.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK