Building company deny secret fees

THE company overseeing school building work on the Northern Rivers under the Federal Government’s stimulus package has hit back at reports of profits gouging.

The Reed Group said many misleading and exaggerated statements had appeared in the media about its projects for the Building the Education Revolution scheme (BER).

There were no secret fees in its costings, the company said, and it had been open and transparent in detailing its project cost estimates.

It welcomed the Federal Government taskforce, set up to ensure schools were getting value for money under BER.

“We trust that the taskforce will expose the many false and misleading statements that have appeared in the media about the BER program, and particularly the Reed Group’s BER projects,” managing director Geoff Reed said.

“The taskforce will demonstrate that the media has grossly exaggerated Reed’s fees.”

The Reed Group’s comments follow reports in The Northern Star of what one Parents and Citizens group member labelled ‘inefficiencies in spending’ by developers, and another slammed as ‘snouts in the trough’.

The Reed Group has 404 projects across 335 schools in NSW. It is managing building works on nearly 70 sites on the North Coast.

One local school principal had nothing but praise for the company, though he said he was not qualified to comment on costs.

Byron Bay Public School principal Geoff Spargo said the school had had a very positive experience with the company.

“Reeds has been very negotiable, and listened to our wishes all the way along,” Mr Spargo said.

The school was granted $3 million to construct a ‘very substantial library with three classrooms above it’, he said.

“We were able to get rid of some demountables, so the project gave us exactly what we wanted, and provided us with further ground space.”

Building was expected to start on Monday, Mr Spargo said.

State Lismore MP Thomas George has called for local schools and residents to make submissions on the BER program as the Parliamentary Inquiry opens.

“I have had numerous complaints, ranging from a pre-fab building arriving that didn’t fit the slab, to a school in Lismore having a local quote of $1.5 million to replace a classroom turn into $3 million under BER, and a member of a P&C committee being told to keep quiet by a principal when he wanted to complain,” Mr George said.

“Schools are frightened to talk about it.”

“Concerns regarding the fees and charges imposed by the State Government, the cost of the projects, the use of local tradesmen and builders, and the variance in quotes have all been issues raised from the public regarding BER projects.”

But Mr Reed said he was ‘proud of our BER project management team and their handling of this complex project’.

State Government audits undertaken during the program, including nine of the Reed Group, showed due diligence in all work by the group, he said.

The Reed Group was confident that further audits on projects it manages will continue to confirm value for money has been delivered.

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