New COVID-19 regulation for NSW local government is not only about COVID-19
The Local Government (General) Amendment (COVID-19) Regulation 2020 (Regulation) came into force on 17 April 2020 to amend the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005, and (despite its name) includes some useful and permanent changes that do not directly relate to COVID-19.
In response to COVID-19, the Regulation temporarily pushes back some dates on which certain things must be done, provides additional time for the payment of annual rates and charges, permits councils to waive or reduce fees in a category of cases that relate to a response to COVID-19 without public notice and removes the need for certain documents to be made available for physical inspection at the offices of the council.
Independent to COVID-19, the Regulation enables councils to publish certain notices electronically rather than in a newspaper.
Usefully, this includes the ability to publish advertisements for expressions of interest of tenders on the website of the council and ‘in any other manner that the council considers necessary to bring it to the attention of persons who may be interested in tendering for the proposed contract.’ Previously, the advertisement had to have been published in both:
- a Sydney metropolitan daily newspaper
- either or both of a newspaper circulating in the council’s area, or in the district where potential tenderers are likely to be carrying on business or to be residing.
Removing the obligation to advertise in newspapers is a pragmatic change that better reflects the way in which potential tenderers become aware of procurement processes, for example by monitoring TenderLink.
The change also enables councils to more easily utilise State Government panels. That is because the Regulation enables councils to invite tenders from a list of contractors prepared by another public authority if the list was prepared by that authority after publishing an advertisement that was ‘similar’ to that required by the council. On one view, there was a risk that a public authority who advertised for its panel online, and not in a newspaper, was not sufficiently ‘similar’.
With the amount of legislation being passed so rapidly to deal with the new world of COVID-19, there is a concern (at least for lawyers) that reduced Parliamentary scrutiny of new laws may lead to poor legal outcomes.
Thankfully the Regulation is likely to lead to some positive outcomes. The Office of Local Government has also prepared a circular to provide further information on these changes.
Maddocks has produced guides to a range of legal issues raised by COVID-19. You can access these guides here.
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