Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pakula in charge of the cheque blank

How does $494m for a new public transport ticketing system (“myki”) blow out to $1,300m (or $1,400m) yet remain within the same “financial parameters” *? New Transport Minister Martin Pakula is the latest in a long line of short-tenure Transport ministers and Transport Ticketing Authority chairmen, CEOs and spokespersons, all of which have successfully dodged, so far, this billion-dollar question. Albeit some left skid marks in their haste: former (and inaugural) TTA CEO Vivian Miners abruptly quit one day before he was due to give evidence to a Victorian parliamentary committee on the state’s ticketing tender.

In his first day on the job, Minister Pakula conspicuously caught the train towards home, only to be met at his local station (not walking distance, but bus-serviced) by his taxpayer-funded, chauffeured 4WD (penultimate URL). Like flying your private 747 to guest-speak at a global warming conference, Pakula’s transport arrangements are a handy emblem of public-private partnerships in general.

The last mile, the fine print of the contract, more than undoes the whole point of the exercise - yet this sordid excess is either wholly exempt from scrutiny ("commercial in confidence"), or, like Pakula's 4WD expedition home through the manicured streets of Black Rock, quickly-forgotten tabloid fodder.

* [For the myki tender,] TTA was able to maintain its output-based requirement, achieve broad intellectual property rights and deliver a contract within the financial parameters set by Government. TTA is confident that the procurement result will provide the best opportunity to deliver a truly world class solution for Melbourne.
- Vivian Miners, CEO (page 5, emphasis added)

a world class fare payment solution for a world class city
(page 6, all lower case, in large letters with a page to itself, and all rendered, no doubt, in a world class font)

The RFT [i.e. myki tender] was strongly outcome-based, with a broad warranty regime, including a ‘Fit For Purpose’ requirement. These concepts represented a ground-breaking approach to the development of an integrated smartcard ticketing system. It was designed to ensure that the onus remains with the successful contractor to deliver a solution that meets, and continues to meet, the requirements set out in the tender, industry best practice and Victorians’ needs for a world-class fare payment system. (page 7)

Above 3 quotes from Transport Ticketing Authority 2004-2005 (signed off September 2005) Annual Report.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

From town hall to corner pub – a 1,300 km stumble

Supposed Laverton, WA loan shark Sam Tomarchio sure has a big territory for his business – all the way from Kalgoorlie to Alice Springs, according to the Oz’s Paige Taylor. This is despite Tomarchio expressly ruling out a Kalgoorlie customer base in the same story: “The ones here [in Laverton, 250 km* NNE of Kalgoorlie] are a different breed to the ones down in Kalgoorlie . . . they’re relatively half-honest” (same URL).

In fact, it appears that most of Tomarchio’s Laverton customers are visiting from the Ngaanyatjarra lands, which centre on Warburton, a dry community 500km NE of Laverton. It is possible, although I doubt it, that the one-pub town of Laverton also acts as a magnet for penurious visitors all the way east from Warburton to Alice Springs, a further 800km north-east. My strong suspicion is that Tomarchio would have even choicer words on the inadvisability of money lending to the Indigenous residents of Alice Springs than those of Kalgoorlie.

In a context quite removed from Tomarchio’s business, however, Paige Taylor’s Alice Springs reference is not without striking relevance to just about any Ngaanyatjarra story – the Ngaanyatjarra Council and Ngaanyatjarra Health Service are both based in Alice Springs, despite that town being almost 1,000km from Warburton by road, and in another jurisdiction. I should note here that while Ngaanyatjarra Council does many things, it is not a local government body – the Warburton-based Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku is this, and so strictly-speaking, Warburton’s “town hall” is indeed in Warburton.

Why Ngaanyatjarra Council and Ngaanyatjarra Health Service – which presumably ruled out Warburton as a base on the grounds of remoteness – did not settle instead for Laverton, Leonora, or Kalgoorlie (towns in ascending order of both urbanity and distance, but all closer to Warburton than is Alice Springs) is more than an administrative quirk. Laverton, vis a vis Ngaanyatjarra locals, is in a governmental blind-spot, despite its obvious importance as Warburton’s closest, by far, unrestricted (c.f. Yulara) alcohol outlet.

It is not surprising, therefore, that with so much Ngaanyatjarra alcohol-enabled dysfunction necessarily exported to Laverton – way, way removed from Alice Springs, a town with plenty of alcohol-enabled dysfunction of its own – Sam Tomarchio should emerge as the implied Fagin/boss of this alcoholic underworld (the details of which are politely – I would say cynically – left unspoken by Paige Taylor).

Also unsurprising is that Tomarchio’s two main apparent enemies are the Laverton police and the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku (the Warburton-based one). Both have evidently exceeded their respective mandates in their eagerness to “get” Tomarchio. Damian McLean, the Ngaanyatjarraku shire president “has succeeded in encouraging more than 100 Aborigines to cancel their bank cards and default on their loans” (same URL), while “Laverton Police believe Mr Tomarchio’s actions are immoral” (WTF?) and claim that “because of Mr Tomarchio, trouble occurs any night of the week and not just on the days when Centrelink money arrives” (both same URL). The latter appears to be an argument in favour of epic binge-drinking; if so, Paige Taylor has sorely disappointed us by not getting a Tomarchio-esque direct quote from the police-officer concerned on why Ngaanyatjarra locals are better drinkers on a once-a-fortnight basis only.

Meanwhile, the Alice Springs-based Ngaanyatjarra Health Service – which would see to be the logical chief advocate for shutting down a business accused of preying on its vulnerable patients – seems to just sit on the media sidelines, so muddying the real issue. Tomarchio’s lending business undoubtedly has a predatory side, but it is hard to imagine what shutting it down might actually do to improve Laverton’s alcohol-based health crisis. In other words, Tomarchio is just a bit-player, but a convenient scapegoat on the wrong side of Warburton from Alice Springs.

In any event, Tomarchio’s lending business now appears to be finished – with $100,000 in bad debt, and every indication from WA police brass that there will be no further inquiries on this front (same URL). Although Tomarchio’s modus operandi – of taking custody of his customer’s physical ATM cards and PINs – seems sordid, it is a much riskier way of ensuring payment that the more usual payday-lending method – a direct-debit authority. Tomarchio’s “security” can be quickly made worthless by a phone call to the bank’s lost-and-stolen card hotline (no change/closure of account required), while cancelling a direct-debit authority requires written notice to the bank, and even then, sometimes continuing liability regardless (I have heard of money being direct-debited from closed accounts, i.e. the former account-holder being billed the amount).

Also, belatedly trying to do some Tomarchio-scapegoating, or if not, Trojan-horsing, is Centrelink, which “is preparing to recommend to Indigenous Affairs minister Jenny Macklin that income management be introduced in the region [whatever that means] as a means of reducing Mr Tomarchio’s access to Aborigines’ welfare payments” (same URL). Meaning that, as with the current (since 2007) Commonwealth Northern Territory Intervention, up to 50 per cent of Centrelink payments would be quarantined for food and essentials. Shifting the Northern Territory Intervention over the border into WA (or parts thereof, presumably) of would be a big step in some ways. In other ways, though, it would merely ratify the status quo – that the current “Alice Springs-model”, of top-heavy, remote governance of a constituency in a downward spiral of dysfunction, is a dangerous and contagious disease, transmissible over 1,300km without even an Alice bureaucrat’s finger being lifted.

* Unless otherwise indicated, all distances are approximate and as-the-crow-flies.

See also : A long, long way from Patjarr – the death in custody of Mr Ward (18 June 2009)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?