Way back at the turn of the 20th century in the Big Apple USA there lived a career con-man named George C. Parker who made the scratch to fund his Saturday afternoon’s Saratoga punting spree by lining a couple of unsuspecting suckers up twice a week and selling them the Brooklyn Bridge.
Parker pulled the scam for years, getting caught here and there but making so much dough in between being pinched by the copper that the inconvenience was a small price to pay for the rewards, until one day his luck finally ran out as the three strikes law kicked in, and he was sent to Sing Sing jail for the term of the rest of his unorthodox life.
Now working up a scam and a sweat twice a week for several years may not seem like the hardest way to make a living in the world sportsfans, but when you whack it up against the idea of earning a substantial six figure annual sum by simply answering the phone once a fortnight, George C. Parker’s way of making an easy living looks likes a lag in hell with hard labor in Alcatraz I’m sure you’d have to agree.
A company in Melbourne named STOPline Pty Ltd earns its shareholders and directors a slice of a healthy six-figure sum each year for doing exactly that.
Answering the phone once every two weeks, or a little less often to be absolutely fair.
You see sportsfans this STOPline outfit has the contract to operate Victoria’s Racing Integrity Hotline, and it seems it has a mortgage on it as well because the company has held the contract to operate it since either the year that Yasunawi Iwata and Katsuhito Sumii rode the exacta in The Cup in 2006, or the one when Gerry Mosse and Luke Nolen tipped out So You Think in two thousand no hundreds and ten.
I’d love to tell you exactly what year STOPline Pty Ltd first won the Hotline contract, but unfortunately I can’t locate the tender notice, or any contract or tender documents, or any public announcement that the contract had been let.
I couldn’t find any details about its expiry or renewal either, or any offer ahead of it for other companies to make a bid; in fact I couldn’t find any bloody official records relating to the contract at all.
It’s not as if I’m not half good at finding stuff, and it’s not that I didn’t try. Sh*t, I spent hours trawling through the public notices in the paper, and searching the Vic Government contracts and tenders database, and I even wasted an hour of my life scratching around extraordinarily boring things like parliamentary estimates committee documents and reports, and departmental annual financial statements.
But what did I come up with in my quest to discover how a company owned and operated by a bunch of ex-Victorian coppers jagged a lucrative six-figure gig requiring them to turn their phones on for 12 hours a day except on the weekends when they’re racing, and answer the ringing thing about once every sixteen days when it vibrates and plays the tune from Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector.
A big fat nothing, that’s what.
‘This can’t be right’ I thought to myself.
‘This is racing integrity we’re talking about, and the hotline was designed to get hidden things out into the open to that everything can be tickety-boo. I must have missed have missed something’.
So I ducked over and had a look at the annual report of Racing Integrity Commission – the cabbage garden patch kids call it The ORIC, a bit like Arthur Fonzarelli used to call himself The Fonz – but the only numbers or figures I came up with there were the ones detailing the incredible volume of calls handled by the Hotline contractors each and every day, or at least one in sixteen of them a year anyway.
The guts of it is sportsfans that I don’t have a bloody clue where the contract details of STOPline’s six-figure seemingly never ending licence to print money by answering a dog and bone once every couple of weeks has got to or from where it came.
All I can guess in the absence of any tender offers or contract specs or documents or anything at all is that the Hotline contract might be part of the milestone partnership between the Victorian Racing Integrity Commissioner Mr Sal Perna and his former employer the Victoria Police.
After all Mr Perna did spend 20 odd years as a copper in the force that after a few hiccups eventually caught up with Ned Kelly and sent him to the gallows a couple of centuries ago, so he’s sure to have a soft spot and a whole lot of respect for a company that’s run by a bunch of ex-jacks.
And STOPline’s a company majority owned and run by a bunch of ex-jacks.
I’m even told that one or two of the STOPline boys might worked under Commissioner Sal’s leadership back in the days when he was a rising star and senior leader among Victoria’s finest – and maybe even a future Commissioner some say – before something suddenly changed in his life or maybe at work, and he decided to give up the power and the prestige and the police hat and badge and went off to work guarding the vaults and doors of a bank instead.
It was a funny career move that one, but who the hell knows what goes on behind closed doors in people’s personal and professional lives, and it’s none of our bloody business anway.
This STOPline contract is though, for its funded by public dough and the mug punters presently sweating their guts out down south of the Murray have a right to know how its blown by their government and how the ex-cops who own STOPline got given the rights to the whole pick up the phone once a fortnight and we’ll pay you a poultice show.
With a bit of luck Commissioner Perna or one of his four managers might tell us now we’ve asked the question nicely, although the manager’s staff won’t because they don’t have any.
Ssshhhh! Don’t tell anyone, but the Manager thing’s just a title Sal gave them to give them a bit of a kick along up the pay scales. They really don’t manage anyone at all. It’s a bit like Dr Forbes who runs Racing Queensland and his surgery full of invisible patients; they just make the titles up to make themselves happy, and so they sound important.
The Racing Integrity Hotline’s important, real important, and the contract for its operation has been through the full wash and wax open tender due process full of so much accountability and top-level probity that it’s as clean as a baby’s bum, and I’d prove it to you too if only someone can find me the bloody thing.
By jolly and by jingo though and mark my words what’s good for the goose is good for the gander and the people of Victoria might not have said too much about how good the STOPline contract is and what a great service to their state paying thousands a week for a very experienced former police officer to pick up the phone once every second one, but if I’m any judge they’re rapt.
Don’t you worry about that.
Hey, you don’t know anyone who’s looking to buy a big bridge do you?
I’ve got a mate who’s selling it at the right price.