The insidious nature of vested interests and a playing field that’s a long, long way from level, when it comes to Federal Government tenders and contracts, has come to the fore with the abysmal failure of the tender-free $5.77 million contract for ‘surge staffing’ in aged care facilities impacted by COVID-19, awarded to Mable Technologies six months ago.
Mable’s tender ‘win’ was baffling as it was not a registered NDIS provider, nor was it an approved Home Care Package provider nor was it a member of any of the relevant recognised representative bodies; the Association of Nursing Recruitment Agencies (ANRA), the Association of Private Nursing Service (APNS) and the Australian Industry Community Alliance (ACIA).
As was demonstrated, by the release of government data, Mable’s performance compared to the RCSA/ANRA members’ performance, in supplying ‘surge staffing’, was like comparing my 1990s karaoke nightclub performances with Queen’s show-owning turn at Live Aid (as brilliantly captured in the film Bohemian Rhapsody).
Grant Millard, CEO of Anglicare, which owns the Newmarch House aged care home, told the aged care royal commission last month; “Mable did have a significant number of staff who applied through their website but most were not suitable or did not want to work in a facility that had positive cases of COVID.”
Thankfully, it seems that this Grand Canyon-esque gap in delivery when compared to what was promised, is attracting attention in the right quarters.
Last Thursday it was reported that Federal Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck has given his in-principle support for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety to examine government aged care tenders,
The royal commission examined the Mable labour supply model in its hearings in August, though not the tendering process
As independent news service, Crikey, reported;
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has urged the royal commission to include the Mable contract and how tenders are handled in aged care.
“I’m deeply concerned about reports on the tendering process for the surge aged care workforce in NSW,” Siewert said. “It smacks of ‘jobs for the boys’ and it appears that it was not adequately assessed given the reports that the required workforce couldn’t be delivered.”
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said the Mable tender demonstrated the need for a federal independent commission against corruption.
“This government has developed an appalling track-record of kowtowing to donors and vested interests. Seems everyone is in for their slice of taxpayer-funded largesse,” Wilkie said. “What’s needed instead is some integrity and transparency.”
Independent South Australian Senator Rex Patrick said the use of limited tenders was “prolific” in government and the using limited tenders gave rise to “very valid” concerns.
“It directly and unequivocally removes competition from the procurement process and, thus, raises value-for-money concerns. On account of a lack of transparency, it also gives cause for those watching to question fairness — because willing suppliers may be excluded — and to raise allegations of malfeasance,” he said.
We can be grateful that independent media (Crikey, The Saturday Paper, and Michael West Media) and independent politicians are paying attention to this issue, because, as I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know, a significant conflict of interest exists in the mainstream media with respect to Mable.
News Corporation publications (including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, and the Herald Sun) are not reporting the dud-standard performance of the Mable platform, against the requirements of the contract it ‘won’. Nor are we reading, in any of these publications, about the inequitable and compromised closed tender process that led to the contract being awarded to Mable in the first place.
Mable is backed by a powerful business network that includes Liberal Party donors, members, and campaign helpers.
A minority shareholder is Scaleup Mediafund, a media-for-equity fund owned by News Corp and other Murdoch media businesses. According to Mable, Scaleup has provided around $500,000 in advertising and marketing for the company, promoting the Mable name across Australia for which, in return, Scaleup has a minority shareholding in Mable.
Three former News Corp executives, operating under the umbrella of Macdoch Ventures, are also investors in Mable.
Let’s hope the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has the opportunity to fully examine, not just the inept performance of Mable against the contract requirements, but the flawed process that excluded all the fully-credentialed and well-resourced RCSA/ANRA members who, once given the opportunity, proved they could deliver when it really mattered.