Sensational claim council knew subbies not paid months ago
QUESTIONS about Gympie Regional Council's management of projects awarded to now-collapsed Ri-Con Contractors continue to swirl, with the council refuting claims it knew about the company's struggles as early as last August.
O'Brien Plumbing Gympie director Tim Bothams, who was owed more than $150,000 when Ri-Con fell over, claims the council was aware in August subcontractors on the Kilkivan Equestrian Centre were being left unpaid.
Another subcontractor, who worked on the equestrian centre and requested anonymity, claimed he spoke to the council about late payment and breach of contract on payment terms last August.
He said he was paid within 48 hours of raising his concerns with the council.
However, a council spokeswoman said the council first became aware of the problems on November 25, after which they "spoke to Ri-con regarding council's concerns of the impact this may have on local contractors".
In a letter sent to councillors and the council on February 4, Mr Bothams said a timeline of the events showed "hard questions need to be asked" about work on the $2 million equestrian centre and the $2.8 million Gympie Youth Precinct.
"The last eight months of dealing with Ri-Con … and Gympie Regional Council with these two projects have shed poor light on the workings of this council and the management of building projects," Mr Bothams said.
He said Ri-Con, removed safety fencing and signage from the equestrian centre on September 6, and the company's project manager never returned to the site or answered calls.
From this point the council's project managers essentially took over the project until its December 12 completion, he claimed.
He said he was told in early December Ri-Con had been paid in full by the council except for $30,000 in extras, despite the centre not yet having had its final building, fire and plumbing inspections.
Mr Bothams also asked why Ri-Con was paid for work on the youth precinct before these finals were issued for the site, too; the precinct still does not have its plumbing final issued.
The council spokeswoman said Ri-Con "was paid for work delivered and completed as per the contract".
She said the council never took over the equestrian contract from Ri-Con.
"Although Ri-Con was not on-site full-time, they continued to oversee and deliver the remaining work, including some plumbing works.
"All projects are governed by theBuilding Industry Fairness Act, dovetailed with the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act which legally requires council to make progressive payments within 15 business days of being served a payments claim."
This held for Ri-Con and its subcontractors, she said.
"Sub-contractors and sub-consultants have a formal process available under the QBCC where they can lodge a Notice of Claim if the contractor is late in paying.
"This provides council the legal authority to withhold money from the progress payment and pay those subcontractors and sub-consultants directly.
"Unfortunately, no subcontractor or sub-consultant took this course of action prior to Ri-Con being declared in liquidation."
She said the youth precinct had an interim certificate, and the council was reviewing its regulatory approval internal process, but "this is unrelated to the Ri-Con matter and is part of a continuous improvement program across council".
Gympie MP Tony Perrett has called for an investigation into any potential issues surrounding Ri-Con's collapse.
His request to Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll follows one from Kawana MP Jarrod Bleijie.
"Local contractors … have raised with me concerns about reports that Ri-Con had provided Gympie Regional Council with signed statements that they had been paid," Mr Perrett said.
"Builders are required to provide a signed statement that subcontractors had been paid before a client can release a progress payment."