A CONSTRUCTION contractor is to receive more than $1 million in bonus payments, despite running almost $7 million over cost on building projects at more than 130 primary schools in NSW.The Reed Group has charged 10 of the schools an identical amount – $1,303,505.22 – for a prefabricated library even though they were costed at $850,000.The group is one of seven managing contractors in the state that won tenders for the federal government’s Building the Education Revolution program at public schools.But while governments have justified what appear to be dramatically inflated prices because of each school’s requirements, the Reed Group’s bills are identical on more than 130 projects. This includes the 10 libraries, each of which will cost almost twice what the Catholic education system has paid for similar facilities.Despite running $453,505 over the federal allocation, an incentive fee of $7314.38 is included as part of the $1.3 million costing for each library, published on the state government’s Building the Education Revolution website. The incentive is for the on-budget and on-time delivery of each project.Parent groups are angry the incentive payments were not waived in the final cost estimates, saying their new libraries were ”a waste of taxpayer dollars”.The president of the Parents and Citizens’ Association for Stroud Public School, Kylie Gorton, said parents were shocked at the cost blowout.”From the P&C’s point of view, we did not get value for money,” Ms Gorton said. ”The government needs to be held accountable for this complete misuse of taxpayers’ funds.”The schools that received identical library costings from the Reed Group are Caniaba, Copmanhurst, Durrumbul, Green Hill, Leeville, Main Arm Upper, Scotts Head, Stroud, Tabulam and Tyalgum.As well as the incentive fee, the cost includes $50,000 for a network substation allowance; $49,396.41 for project management; a $570,985.84 modular building cost; $149,968.59 for design documentation, field data and site management; $74,244.00 for preliminaries; $210,263 for superstructure; $90,363.00 for site works and $47,420.00 for site services.A whistleblower, Craig Mayne, who is a civil engineering design draughtsman, said based on figures supplied to the BER Senate inquiry, the Catholic Education Commission could deliver an equivalent library for $691,410.”Very few have required substation upgrades [and] the cost for the electricity people to come out is only $900,” he said.”The contractors are getting massive project management costs plus site-management costs and are still being paid contingencies for something that is a fixed price.”More than 50 other schools were allocated $850,000 for prefabricated classrooms. Reed will be paid $892,860.29 for each, according to the BER website.Attention has already been drawn to about 90 schools being charged $259,909.31 for classrooms which were originally costed at $250,000.Lisa Hall, from Eungai Public School P&C, said the costings showed Reed would receive an incentive fee of $5926.98 for each set of classrooms.The NSW opposition spokesman on education, Adrian Piccoli, said a royal commission should be held because managing contractors had refused to give evidence to the Senate inquiry.”It is beyond comprehension that there could be this coincidence where two projects are identical in price to the very cent, let alone more than 100 projects. ”I’m in no way suggesting anything illegal occurring but clearly somebody is having a lend of taxpayers.”A spokesman for the Education Department said the costings on its BER website were estimates. ”Incentive payments are only made to managing contractors when they deliver a project on time and on budget.”He said similar projects had been delivered in a package to save money. ”The final costings are unlikely to be identical as once actual buildings are delivered to school each component will change to reflect the actual conditions at the site,” he said.A spokesman for the federal Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, said the government wanted value for money. ”That’s why we have established the implementation taskforce headed by prominent businessman Mr Brad Orgill. If anyone believes they have evidence that their school is not receiving value for money, they should contact Mr Orgill with their concerns.”The Reed Group failed to respond to the Herald’s questions.
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