Plumber Tim Bothams hails Gympie council’s decision to release documents connected to collapsed builder Ri-Con Contractors as a step in the right direction.
Plumber Tim Bothams hails Gympie council’s decision to release documents connected to collapsed builder Ri-Con Contractors as a step in the right direction.

Council sticks neck out for subbies

SECRET documents relating to work by collapsed building company Ri-Con Contractors will be released by Gympie Regional Council in a move hailed by one subcontractor as “the right thing to do”.

Councillors voted unanimously yesterday to release the documents, including statutory declarations submitted by Ri-Con to the council about payments, copies of the insurance currency certificates for the Kilkivan Equestrian Centre and Gympie Youth Hub projects, and the tender documents issued for these works, despite the risk of the council being left legally exposed.

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These had been requested by subcontractors owed money by Ri-Con, including O’Brien Plumbing.

Kilkivan’s Equestrian Centre was one project Ri-Con worked on before it collapsed.
Kilkivan’s Equestrian Centre was one project Ri-Con worked on before it collapsed.

O’Brien’s director Tim Bothams welcomed the council’s help.

“It’s like finally somebody is doing something with benevolence,” Mr Bothams said.

Questions over the statutory declarations, which allegedly state subcontractors were paid for work on council-funded projects, have swirled since Ri-Con collapsed in January owing millions of dollars.

Both Gympie and Sunshine Coast councils said they had been given these declarations.

Liquidator Paul Nogueira said in his last report to ASIC that a shortage of funds and limited access to Ri-Con’s financial systems left him “unable to form any view” on claims these documents may have breached laws.

The report said the Commonwealth Bank was likely to be the only business to recoup money from the collapse.

Councillors Bob Fredman, Dolly Jensen, Shane Waldock, Jess Milne, Bruce Devereaux, Mayor Glen Hartwig, Warren Polley, Deputy Mayor Hilary Smerdon and Dan Stewart unanimously agreed to release the documents.
Councillors Bob Fredman, Dolly Jensen, Shane Waldock, Jess Milne, Bruce Devereaux, Mayor Glen Hartwig, Warren Polley, Deputy Mayor Hilary Smerdon and Dan Stewart unanimously agreed to release the documents.

Gympie council governance officer Brian Hayes said any release request would normally be done under Right to Information, but “that’s quite a lengthy process … this is a time-sensitive matter”.

There was “always a risk” when it came to documents a third party may claim to be commercial in confidence, he said.

But this was balanced against the perceived public interest of releasing the documents.

“The legal advice we received is … council can release these documents under a council resolution.”

Mr Bothams said the decision took subbies “another step closer … to what we’re trying to achieve”.

Councillor Bruce Devereaux said the council needed to look hard at how it could protect subcontractors on future projects.