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Minister discusses the case of the employment agency tenderer in Sydney whose former employer has filed a complaint against him on the grounds that he breached tendering guidelines; Minister says tenderer met all tendering requirements

PETER CAVE: Unemployed people in one of the most economically deprived areas of Sydney will be sent to an employment agency with no office, no agency and no expertise. That's a result of the Federal Government's decision to tender out services traditionally supplied by the Commonwealth Employment Service.

Yesterday, in the Parliament, Labor was refused permission by the new Speaker, Ian Sinclair, to ask about the contract award but, this morning, the Employment Minister, David Kemp, has agreed to answer questions, and he joins us now in Canberra, and to speak to him, Rafael Epstein.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: David Kemp, when you were asked about this type of case last week you said it couldn't happen. Has it happened?

DAVID KEMP: Well, every tenderer has had to demonstrate expertise. They've had to show that they have good strategies to help unemployed people. They've had to show that they will provide adequate points of access for unemployed people. This particular tenderer is one of 50 in the Sydney area to which unemployed people can go. Every tenderer also had to pass rigorous financial viability checks and this tenderer has done so on each of those counts.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: His former employees have filed a complaint against him saying he worked on their unsuccessful submission as well. They say that breaches tender guidelines. Does it?

DAVID KEMP: The tender was structured to provide complete integrity to the process, and every tenderer was required to sign a statutory declaration that they were not engaged in any collusive tendering or any anti-competitive conduct or any other similar kinds of conduct.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: And from what you've heard you think that may have occurred?

DAVID KEMP: Well, some ... an allegation has been made and, obviously, the department will take legal advice on that matter. But the point that I want to emphasise is that the tender process is one which has conducted the most rigorous checks as to the quality and financial viability, and this particular tenderer passed those and, therefore, those allegations in the introductory remarks to this interview are completely unsubstantiated. And the Government is confident that this tenderer past those checks but, equally, this tenderer and every other tenderer, had to sign a statutory declaration. And the tender process's integrity is therefore completely protected.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: The tenderer is also reportedly going to sublet that contract. Is that okay?

DAVID KEMP: Yes, subcontracting will be a normal part of the operation of the job network and it's a way of bringing in further expertise.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: So it's okay for the tenderer to effectively get money and then just pass the service on to someone else?

DAVID KEMP: Well, many tenderers will be subcontracting, in particular areas, because perhaps they find that there is an expert agency in that area that didn't get a contract. They would, in that case, be managing and oversighting the provision of that service, and we would see that as adding to the overall pool of quality and expertise within the job network.

In the case of tenderers who want to subcontract and haven't previously indicated that to us, they would have to get permission from the Government in order to subcontract.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Minister, thanks for your time.

DAVID KEMP: Thank you very much.

PETER CAVE: The Employment Minister, David Kemp, was speaking there to Rafael Epstein in Canberra.