Aged Care Minister says Royal Commission can examine Government aged care tenders after Mable contract awarded under limited tender – but will the Commissioners have time?

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Senator Richard Colbeck (pictured above) has supported calls from the crossbench for the Royal Commission into Aged Care to investigate Government aged care tenders after an investigation by Crikey raised serious questions about the tender process for the Government’s aged care ‘surge’ workforce.

The Greens and independent senators put it to the Minister that the process should be examined following a two-part report by the independent news website which revealed that a $5.77 million six-month contract for Mable to provide a ‘surge’ workforce to the aged care sector was awarded without open tender by the Department of Health.

Journalist David Hardaker reported that the platform was initially unable to supply staffing to help with the COVID outbreak at Anglicare’s Newmarch House despite being contracted to do so.

Government didn’t widen tender process

There is no suggestion that Mable has done anything wrong in the Crikey reports – rather, the question seems to be whether the Government is at fault for not widening the tender process.

The investigation also questions the role that the platform’s backers may have played in securing the contract.

Mable is backed by James Packer-backed private equity firm Ellerston Capital with Scaleup Mediafund, backed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited, as a minor partner.

“The royal commission has been established with very broad terms of reference to enable it to look at all aspects of the aged care sector,” a spokesperson for Minister Colbeck said. “In principle, Minister Colbeck supports its consideration of the management of tenders.”

Royal Commission running out of time

But while the Commissioners may have the scope to examine the tenders, will they have the time?

Th Royal Commission concluded its final public hearings this week with the Counsel Assisting due to address the Commissioners on the issue of system governance – along with their findings from the funding and financing hearings – next month.

We asked the Commission if they were planning to look at the issue, but had not received a response by the time of publication.

If they do decide to take up the investigation, they will have to move quickly. The Royal Commission is due to hand its Final report to the Governor-General on 26 February 2021 – just five months away.