WRAP media release - 8 January 2021
Department of Justice exhibits complete ethical void by engagement of North Barker
In July 2020, WRAP approached Mr Andrew North of North Barker Ecosystem Services to ask whether it would act for WRAP as its environmental consult in respect of the Northern Regional Prison at Birralee. Mr North indicated that North Barker was free and willing to act and provided a costs proposal to WRAP.
"Information about the site and salient strategic issues were communicated to Mr Barker at that time, and preliminary advice was provided. I asked Mr Barker to keep a track of the time he was spending on the project, as we did not expect him to provide advice for nothing. Subsequently, a site visit was agreed to occur following the Government's release of the final prison footprint. In our view, there was offer and acceptance and a binding contract was struck.
Subsequently, on 13 November 2020 I was contacted by Mr Grant Daniels of North Barker to query whether WRAP still wished them to conduct the proposed site visit. In our discussion on 16 November, I confirmed that WRAP still wanted them do so and apologised for the delay, which was solely attributable to the Government not yet releasing the final details.
Mr Daniels then stated that the Department of Justice had approached North Barker to engage them in respect of the prison project, which came as a shock. I confirmed with Mr Daniels, both in that discussion and in writing on 16 November 2020, that WRAP wished to continue with their pre-existing engagement and that there would be a clear conflict of interest in North Barker acting for the Department instead.
Much later, on 22 December 2020, Mr Daniels wrote to advise that North Barker had been engaged by the Department and could not now offer services to WRAP.
WRAP is currently considering its legal options in relation to this unethical repudiation.
However, the Department's conduct in luring North Barker away from WRAP warrants greater scrutiny.
There can be no doubt that the Department was aware of WRAP's position that North Barker had been retained by it.
In a media statement on 7 January 2021, a Departmental spokesperson stated that:
'North Barker has advised that their previous discussions with WRAP do not preclude them from working on this project.'
This statement places the onus on North Barker for ditching WRAP. However, for the Department to even contemplate engaging North Barker in such circumstances is indicative of a complete ethical void within the Department, as overseen by the Attorney-General. This is particularly so where the Government is in a position to avail itself of any number of consultants.
In the same media statement, the Government spokesperson made the following assertion:
'Following the withdrawal of the previous consultant, the Department of Justice undertook a procurement process in December 2020, to engage a new environmental consultant.
This is now complete and North Barker has been engaged by the Department, to provide environmental consultancy services in relation to the Northern Regional Prison project.'
In light of Mr Daniel's advice of 16 November that North Barker had already been approached by the Department to act for them, this statement appears to be a lie.
The Department of Justice is clearly now very comfortable in its well-established habit of covering up decisions which have already been made behind closed doors by creating and touting sham procurement processes.
This latest course of conduct shows that there is gross moral turpitude on the part of the Department, which must be sheeted home to its Minister, Elise Archer. Regrettably, WRAP is considering the need for yet another referral to the Integrity Commission.
I am not sure how much lower this so called "Department of Justice" can sink to" said Linda Poulton, WRAP Spokesperson.
Spokesperson, WRAP Inc