Dave Stewart – the public service mandarin, not the rock star from Eurythmics – is the Director-General of the Queensland Department of the Premier and Cabinet, a role that renders him the most powerful bureaucrat in the Pineapple Land.
An engineer by trade, and a favorite of Labor governments across the eastern seaboard by design or perhaps just good fortune, Stewart was a few years earlier the Director-General of Transport and Main Roads, but in 2012 was sacked in controversial circumstances in the fiasco that saw him replaced by LNP mate and former Brisbane Councillor Michael Caltabiano, who lasted about 23 seconds in the job before being forced to stand down over a ‘jobs for the boys and girls’ scandal that effectively ended his government career.
Stewart copped an almighty redundancy payout (about half a million bucks by all reports) but before too many months had passed found himself back at the top echelons of the state bureaucracy heading up Projects Queensland, the razor gang otherwise known as the Treasury Commercial Group that was (and still is) charged with the responsibility of selling the State by holding hands with commercial operators and public-private ‘partners’ and helping them to pick the eyes out of any government project that looked remotely profitable.
That gig lasted about 12 months before Stewart jumped ship to NSW to perform a similar role for the Government down there, signing huge private contracts for the building of roads and tunnels that once upon a time would have been constructed by highly skilled government workers, but since they’ve all been sacked over the past decade is now the domain of large, and usually dodgy. private firms that devolve the work to smaller but even more dodgy subcontractors, a large number of whom collapse owing everyone plenty about 5 minutes after they’ve cashed their last government cheque.
It must read well on resume I guess, for the very first thing newly elected Qld Premier Annastacia Palaczszuk did after being sworn in as the boss was to bring Stewart back to Queensland as her hand-picked right-hand man running the public service.
The question is though, did the Premier know that she was getting two for the price of one, because where Dave Stewart goes his Annie Lennox goes too, even all the way to the Queen’s man’s mansion where Daphnis lives.
Annie’s real name isn’t actually Annie – that was just me trying to be funny – it’s Pauline Bourke, and she’s not just Dave Stewart’s musical collaborator, she’s also his wife. They must like each other’s company a lot too because they seem to work to work together quite a deal, particularly on jobs that Stewart’s in charge of, like the Government Wireless Network project, or the State Infrastructure Plan, both plum consultancy roles won by an outfit called The Comms Team that in what I’m sure is an absolute coincidence is directed by none other than Pauline Bourke, the boss’s missus.
Now I’m sure that Dave steps away from the stage when Annie puts her hand up to sing Karaoke, because it would create a massive conflict of interest and be an abrogation of his responsibility as a public servant if he didn’t. But it’s not a great look when the company run by the wife of the bloke in charge is winning lucrative contracts left, right and centre is is it sportsfans?
Can you imagine the outcry at the Bunger RSL if Kevvy actually had a missus and she was given not only the karaoke hosting gig on a Saturday night, but exclusive rights to run the door, sell the drinks clean up afterwards too? The punter would simply go beserk, and quite rightly too, for despite the fact that a bird’s got the right to earn a quid no matter who her old man is, there’s this little thing called public perception that’s pretty important when you’re entrusted with the keys and given the green light to run the state.
That’s why it worries me so much that since Dave came back to enjoy the sun and run the big show for his mate the Premier, The Comms Team has been awarded nearly $3/4 of a million worth of government contracts over and above the Wireless and Infrastructure gigs they copped when Dave was in charge of Projects Queensland.
This is them below, extrapolated from the government’s open data website.
What worries me even more though is that 2 of the 4 largest contracts – the ones worth $158 224 and $55 000 respectively, sum total $213 224 – were issued by limited tender, which in layman’s terms means that they weren’t publicly advertised in the usual manner, but instead that The Comms Team were approached directly by the government and asked to name their price.
It’s what we call in Geebung a ‘jack up’ or a ‘gimme’, and by the Government’s own procurement rules the highly questionable method of dishing out contracts is only supposed to be used, and I quote:
in very specific circumstances, such as under extreme urgency or if goods and services can only be provided by one supplier (e.g. a commissioned work of art).
Bearing this in mind, can anyone explain to me how a contract to run the communications and ‘stakeholder strategy’ – that means working out what color paper the junk mail flyers should be printed on – for a project to review (ie increase) public transport fares can be either:
(a) Urgent, when there are a million communications companies out there in the marketplace who are perfectly willing and able to spin a hike in how much you pay to wait an hour for a train to work into something akin to sex with a supermodel; or
(b) Able to be only supplied by one provider, when every bastard unlucky enough to be stuck at home in the daytime knows that there are more communications companies out there wanting to engage with – preferably in their eyes by phone – than there are snowflakes in Antartica, or Invercargill, New Zealand at the very least.
Similarly, how does a seemingly run of the mill gig such as being the Queensland Tourism and Transport Strategy contractor fall into either category, unless of course one contract leads to the other, and if that’s the case then the questions become even hairier.
Running the train down the same track (if we can find a driver without paying the bludger triple time), how does a contract to go knocking on punters doors to see what they reckon about our public transport system fall into the ‘selective tender’category?
To put you in the know,.selective tenders are, and I quote again:
Where they (the department letting the contract) have determined that only suppliers who have met certain pre-established criteria may submit a bid. This may require you to hold certain prequalification or accreditation.
What, like owning a bloody telephone? You’d have to be kidding wouldn’t you? Someone is surely having a lend of us you’d think, and do you know what? I reckon you’d be just about right because to a simple fella from Geebung like me the way these contracts have been awarded seems as hot as the electrical gear Larry the Lifter flogs to unsuspecting punters out the back of the Bunger carpark on a Friday night when the cops are on a changeover of shift. Very bloody hot indeed.
I reckon that someone needs to explain to the average sportsfan exactly why a company owned and operated by the missus of the bloke who heads the whole Government show is being awarded contracts with dollar figures on them that most could only dream about, without the missus of the big boss’s company being required to tender for the money spinning assignments on an open and competitive basis.
If it’s good enough for the mug commuter to compete in a survival of the fittest game every day to get a seat on a dirty old jam-packed QR train, then in my humble opinion its good enough for Dave’s bird and her mob to compete on price, quality and service for a contract to charge us more for the privilege.
That’s my humble opinion anyway.
What do you reckon?