The NSW Government has taken the tender for electronic ID scanners at Sydney nightclubs out of the hands of the Kings Cross Liquor Accord after uncovering probity issues with a prospective supplier.
The Accord had been running the tender process for the system, which would see electronic identification scanners implemented at 35 high-risk licensed venues in Sydney’s Kings Cross, since October.
The scanners were scheduled to be introduced on December 6th, to coincide with the arrival of new legislation - the Liquor Amendment (Kings Cross Plan of Management) Act 2013, passed on 16 October 2013.
The act will see the 35 venues operate ID scanners from 7pm on Fridays until 7am Mondays. Venues will be required to scan the photo identification of all patrons coming through their doors during that time.
The plan, launched by Premier Barry O’Farrell in September last year, was part of a two-step strategy to reduce reduce alcohol-related violence in the area.
But late Friday, NSW hospitality minister George Souris announced the Kings Cross Liquor Accord tender would be cancelled and taken over by the NSW Department of Trade and Investment, after the first chosen supplier failed an ethics check.
He said the move had the support of NSW Police.
“Unfortunately, the Director-General of Trade and Investment was unable to issue a probity clearance for the first tender. This means that a fresh tender process must now be undertaken by the government,” he said in a statement.
“The Government recognises that the community must have complete confidence in the tender process and the choice of supplier and operator. It must ensure that this process is not compromised.”
A spokesperson for Souris declined to comment further due to “legal issues” but said there were “very good reasons” why the tender had been cancelled.
CEO of the Kings Cross Liquor Accord, Doug Grand, said he had received six tenders which the organisation had been given five days to evaluate.
The Accord had been given only six weeks from the 16th October - when the new legislation was passed - to choose a successful supplier, under a “extremely tight timeframe” given by the state government, Grand said. The organisation made or received contact with 14 companies prior to that time.
A supplier was selected and put into probity but pulled out at the last minute, for reasons Grand said the government had not provided him.
The Accord was then asked to recommend two further companies in addition to the selected supplier last week. Grand said his understanding was the two recommended companies were currently in probity with the government.
Technical specifics of the scheme are yet to be revealed, but the system is expected to be linked across the 35 venues, to allow a person ejected from one premise to be banned across all.
Grand said the supplier the Accord had initially chosen had put forward a cloud-based system. The data will not be stored on premise and will only be accessible to the state's police, he said.
The Trade and Investment department expects to issue a new tender early in the new year, and will appoint a supplier soon after following a “strict probity process”.
“It is far better to take little extra time in order to provide greater certainty and confidence especially with privacy and probity for the community and all concerned, that the process is undertaken properly,” Souris said.
Report raises privacy concerns
Meanwhile, a report into the use of ID scanners in nightclubs has found they bring up serious privacy concerns, without reducing alcohol-related violence.
The Australian Institute of Criminology last week put out a report which studied the impact of ID scanners in Melbourne nightclubs over four years, and found the approach had increased rather than decreased alcohol-related hospital admissions.
It found the ID scanners had resulted in violence moving from inside the 10 high-risk clubs to out on the surrounding streets, while police were failing to use the collected data to identify violent offenders.
Premises were also only selectively scanning patrons when long queues formed, it found.