Education Department contract handed to friend of minister without undergoing tender process


Updated

July 30, 2018 10:13:10

A former Northern Territory Education Department bureaucrat who cost taxpayers thousands in a payout for engaging in derogatory emails about a bullied teacher has been handed a consultancy contract that did not go through a competitive process.

Former Palmerston Regional School director Hylton Hayes was awarded the $19,000 contract two weeks before then-education minister Eva Lawler left the portfolio during a Cabinet reshuffle last month. Mr Hayes is a friend and campaign volunteer of Ms Lawler’s.

Education Department sources told the ABC that Mr Hayes’ employment was ended in 2016, and he was also reprimanded in 2012 for engaging in disparaging emails about a teacher in East Arnhem Land that resulted in an undisclosed payout by the department.

Independent MLA Gerry Wood told ABC Radio Darwin on Monday that the lack of a competitive process made it look like “jobs for the boys and girls” — a practice Labor pledged to end when elected in August 2016.

“Jobs should be given on merit, not on party loyalty or friendship,” Mr Wood said.

“That merit needs to be seen in an open and transparent manner, and if they can’t do that, they can only blame themselves when people start to ask questions about how people get these jobs.”

Ms Lawler declined to answer questions about her friendship with Mr Hayes, but said in a statement to the ABC that she is not involved in awarding contracts.

“As Minister I do not have a say in employment or in the procurement of contracted officers by the public service,” she said.

“These are matters for the chief executive and their delegates, and questions relating to those arrangements should be directed to the department.”

Hayes ‘a wonderful person’, Lawler says

An Education Department spokeswoman said that although the consultancy contract to investigate student enrolment in East Arnhem Land was classified as a Tier 2 contract, which typically requires three quotes, Mr Hayes’ company was given the contract directly.

“An exemption was approved in accordance with the Northern Territory Government’s procurement rules to obtain one quotation only, from [Hylton Hayes Consultancy],” the spokeswoman said.

“A request was issued to HHC for the quotation and upon its receipt, the quotation was assessed by the assessment panel against the prescribed criteria and weightings.”

The spokeswoman said the contract was not advertised and no competing quotes were sought because the assessment panel independently determined that Mr Hayes was suitably qualified based on his previous experience in East Arnhem Land schools.

She said the Minister was not involved in the decision to award the contract.

Ms Lawler worked with Mr Hayes when she was deputy chief executive of the Education Department in 2012 and praised him in her maiden speech to Parliament as a “wonderful person” who “assisted and encouraged” her during the 2016 election.

Mr Hayes was seen wearing a red shirt inside a Labor electorate tent at the Palmerston markets on June 8, just days before he was officially awarded the contract on June 13.

Mr Wood said exemptions from seeking competing quotes clouded the contract awarding process.

“If you believe in the concept of open and transparent government, you need to show that … by not giving exemptions to tenders,” he said.

Ms Lawler was moved out of the education portfolio on June 26, as part of a larger NT Government reshuffle, and is now Minister for the Infrastructure and Environment.

Payout to bullied teacher

Mr Hayes was reprimanded in 2012 for an email he sent to another school official relating to a teacher who had filed bullying complaints.

In responding to an email about the teacher in 2011, Mr Hayes, who was the then-director of school performance in Arnhem, wrote: “Ohhh! Mental health facilities are desperately needed and sends a shiver through me. On another matter, how do you get a gun licence in the Territory?”

The principal at the school where the teacher taught responded: “Walk into a police station and tell them you have a varmitt [sic] problem. Have a happy day.”

Another email exchange, started by the principal, referred to the bullied teacher as a “tattoo monkey”.

The emails were referenced in legal action that resulted in an undisclosed payout by the department to the teacher in 2012.

Labor pledged to clean up ‘jobs for mates’

ASIC records indicate Mr Hayes established Hylton Hayes Consultancy in February.

Charles Darwin University was awarded a similar contract in January valued at $34,000 to look at student enrolment “pressure points” across the NT.

The department said the contracts were “completely different”, because Mr Hayes was focusing solely on why students in East Arnhem Land were not attending school.

Mr Hayes did not respond to a series of questions about his previous employment with the department, but said in an email that he volunteered for Ms Lawler’s election campaign because he was friends with her and thought she would be a strong community representative.

“The contract I have currently with the Department of Education was through appropriate processes and was negotiated with the department representatives only,” he said.

While in opposition, Labor heavily criticised the previous Country Liberal Party government for awarding jobs to mates and pledged to clean up the practice once in power.

In his 2016 budget reply speech, then-opposition leader Michael Gunner said: “Four years of the CLP’s dodgy deals, jobs for mates and an arrogant disdain for transparency and accountability has seen Territorians’ trust in Government hit rock bottom.”

The Gunner Government came under fire earlier this year for awarding high-paying jobs to some of its failed candidates and other insiders, and Mr Wood said the Government had lost credibility on the issue.

“You have to raise the bar higher when there is the possibility of accusations made that these jobs are given out because they’re friends with the Government,” he said.

Topics:

education,

government-and-politics,

darwin-0800,

nt

First posted

July 30, 2018 10:00:55



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