Perle questions to be answered

JUST how a failed Sydney building company with $100,000 in assets was awarded $23 million in State Government public housing contracts will be scrutinised by three lines of inquiry.

As the Coffs Coast Advocate reported on Saturday, various probes are under way into Perle Constructions, which has left debts of $1.6 million in the Coffs Harbour building industry.

State Finance and Services Minister Greg Pearce has engaged the government's Internal Audit Bureau to undertake an investigation into the company's Housing NSW contracts, including unit block developments in Azalea Ave, West High St and Harbour Dr.

At the same time Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser has referred the matter to ICAC and the Auditor General.

Already Mr Pearce has expressed his concern over the contracts and how they were handled by Housing NSW.

"Housing NSW's financial assessment of builders such as Perle was not sophisticated. Nor was it ongoing," Mr Pearce said.

"Contracts were entered into with companies such as Perle that simply could not handle the volume of work and the unrealistic timeframes.

"I am also asking questions about the management of the building contracts by Housing NSW, most especially once it became aware, in the case of Perle, that Perle was experiencing financial difficulties.

"Subcontractors have claimed that they repeatedly notified Housing NSW that they were not being paid.

"Housing NSW continued to pay Perle, but the money was not passed on to the subcontractors or suppliers."

He said the bureau would investigate not only the procurement processes, but also Housing NSW's management of those contracts.

"The investigation will consider the adequacy of financial assessments undertaken, whether appropriate procurement processes were followed, and the monitoring of the performance of Perle during the conduct of the contracts," he said.

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