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Councillor demands inquiry into $32.5 million plus sewerage blowout

Nov 27, 2023

Hawkesbury City Council (HCC) will consider a notice of motion tomorrow night (Nov 28) calling for an independent investigation in relation to the extraordinary cost blowout on a 2022 sewerage repair job that saw the council forced to take out an unprecedented loan of $32.5 million last December.

HCC was forced to adjourn its meeting last Tuesday at 11pm due to the large volume of business and will continue tomorrow night.

The sewer repair cost may now blow out to as much as $50 million over the 29 year term of the loan, after the NSW government turned down a request from council to help with the loan. It is by far the most expensive cost blowout of the current council.

Councillor Eddie Dogramaci, a long time critic of the repair to the broken sewerage line “Rising Main C”, wants the entire sewerage repair debacle investigated – from the actual cause of the initial problem, to the maintenance of the sewerage section prior to the flood events of 2020 and 2022 as well as the procurement process that lead to the cost escalation and an expensive court battle.

Part of the cost blowout, according to court documents seen by the Hawkesbury Post, was a bungled contract that led to alleged overcharging of HCC by The Civil Experts (trading as TCE), a contractor on the repair project. The disputed amount was $4.9 million. 

The council eventually lost a court battle in August and was forced to pay the contractor $3.3 million, plus its court costs. The HCC had engaged a senior barrister and two city law firms to run the case. The Hawkesbury Post understands that councillors were not informed about the case.

Despite the debacle, council management appears to be baulking at the $30,000 plus cost of an investigation into understanding exactly how the cost of repairs increased from $2.7 million to over $30 million in just 18 months.

In a note to Cr Dogramaci’s notice of motion, HCC management noted that any thorough investigation of the issue would cost “upwards of $30,000” that is not yet budgeted for and would have to be addressed in the Quarterly Council review. 

For context, it is worth noting that HCC has already spent $96,000 on Codes of Conduct this year, many initiated by the Mayor Sarah McMahon against fellow councillors, HCC council papers have revealed.

 

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