Contractors stung by collapse of civil construction firm hit out at industry regulator


February 06, 2019 07:46:03

The company charged with scrutinising building companies in the Territory is broken and should be scrapped, according to contractors stung by the collapse of a pre-approved civil construction firm.

Key points:

  • Indigenous Construction Resource Group (ICRG) North entered voluntary administration in February 2017
  • It had been approved by the industry regulator
  • Local tradesmen were left $2 million out of pocket

Indigenous Construction Resource Group (ICRG) North entered voluntary administration in February 2017, owing local tradesmen more than $2 million.

The company had pre-approval from Contractor Accreditation Limited, the industry regulator, to bid for major contracts.

Yet months after winning the tender to upgrade leisure and camping facilities at Litchfield National Park, the company folded without completing the works.

Howard Springs builder Troy Bond, who’s owed $300,000, said he was lucky to still be in business.

“It’s put stress on us financially,” he said.

“We’ve had to cut back on staff, just your day-to-day living costs.

“Slowly, slowly, every job we’re paying off another creditor, or paying off another supplier. But it’s been two years.”

Former pastoralist Bill Sullivan lost $60,000 in the collapse.

MS Contracting, which he now runs with his son Mark, was operating a remote work camp for ICRG North when the firm went under.

“It wasn’t that big; it was only 60 grand. It wasn’t that big a deal. But yeah … we got absolutely nothing,” Mr Sullivan said.

He said he was frustrated at the detailed financial documents his company has produced, only to see firms like ICRG North win approval, then fall over.

ICRG North was incorporated in 2014 as a joint venture between the Perth-based ICRG, and a local company.

Like its parent company, ICRG North focused on civil and mining services to the resources and government sectors, while at the same time boosting Indigenous employment.

Its largest government contract, awarded in October of 2015 and worth $4.5 million, was for maintaining unsealed roads in the Katherine region.

The firm also had a role in the recent Tiger Brennan Drive upgrades in Darwin.

Now, it was in the hands of liquidators Rodgers Reidy.

‘The scheme is working well’

ABC News spoke to three other creditors of ICRG North who wouldn’t speak publicly, saying it may jeopardise their chances of winning government work.

All three wanted to know why the ICRG North won the $2.2 million Department of Infrastructure tender to upgrade Litchfield National Park less than 12 months before the company folded.

And they echoed Mr Sullivan’s concerns about Contractor Accreditation Limited (CAL).

CAL, set up in 1995 by the Master Builders Association of the NT and the Chamber of Commerce, was aimed at bringing self-regulation and providing government with an independent contractor pre-qualification scheme.

CAL registrar, Stephen Ward, said he had sympathy for the creditors.

“I have no doubt that sub-contractors and suppliers who suffer losses due to the collapse of an accredited contractor would question the value of the scheme,” he said.

“However, multiple independent reviews of the scheme since 1999, have consistently found that the scheme is working well, and could be expanded.”

He said ICRG North was just the 14th accredited company to go into administration between 1995 and 2017, during which CAL dealt with “around 3,500” individual contractors.

He also said ICRG North had a written guarantee from its parent company, which had a strong track record of work in the mining sector.

Troy Bond returned to Litchfield after the collapse, having won a tender to complete what was left of the project.

He said he’s come to accept liquidators will leave him with less than 10 per cent of the $300,000 he’s still owed, but he was happy he was still in business.

“Some of [the creditors] have actually packed up and left Darwin. It happens a lot. [Others] are just hanging in there and chipping away,” he said.








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