Unpaid subbies offered four cents in the dollar

 Mark Nelson, from Co-ordinated Logistics is one of 30 sub-contractors who will lose thousands of dollars on a multi-million defence project at HMAS Albatross. Photo: JESSICA LONG

Mark Nelson, from Co-ordinated Logistics is one of 30 sub-contractors who will lose thousands of dollars on a multi-million defence project at HMAS Albatross. Photo: JESSICA LONG

SUBCONTRACTORS working on a multi-million dollar project at HMAS Albatross are set to lose thousands of dollars after the collapse of one of the companies involved in the project.

At least 30 contractors are owed money after Canberra-based civil engineering company, Hewatt’s Earthmoving, was placed into administration.

Local subbies are owed between $3 million and $5 million but an offer from administrators may see them receive just between four and 14 cents in the dollar on their missing payments.

Subcontractors’ spokesman Mark Nelson from Co-ordinated Logistics whose company alone is owed $350,000, said at the lower end of the scale it would mean a return of just $15,000 on his losses.

And worse still for the subcontractors, if they accept those repayments they will still have to wait up to nine months to receive them.

“Under the offer we would receive half our funds in four-and-a-half months and the remainder another four-and-a-half months after that,” Mr Nelson said.

“There is a second creditors’ meeting this Friday in Canberra and we will see what that brings, but I’m not hopeful of the offer rising.

“To receive between four and 14 cents in every dollar we are owed means I would walk away with $15,000, which is insulting.”

He said subcontractors only had two options – to take the offer or put the company into liquidation.

“The liquidation option may or may not be any better, the outcome may not be much different,” he said.

“More worrying is the fact the administrator’s report indicates potentially that Hewatt’s was insolvent as far back as October last year – before the project started in Nowra in mid-November.

“The question now is if that is the case, how did the government and Lend Lease allow this project to start, exposing 30 Shoalhaven and Illawarra contractors?

“A formal reply from the Defence Minister’s Office on June 5 said, ‘Defence understands all payment claims from Hewatt’s to Lend Lease for works up until April 20 was accompanied by a statutory declaration which certified all amounts due to subcontractors and suppliers had been paid’.

“The administrator’s report indicates Lend Lease is withholding some $600,000, which they have made as a counter claim for liquidation damages for Hewatt’s but even though we are owed somewhere between $3 million and $5 million and Lend Lease just $600,000, where has the rest of our money gone?”

Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis raised the subcontractors’ plight in federal parliament last week, saying “some hardworking local subcontractors are facing bankruptcy with debts around $2 million and more to come — unpaid invoices go back to March, April and May.”

Mrs Sudmalis called on all relevant parties to come together and mediate the issue. 

Mr Nelson hasn’t returned to the site, saying after speaking up he hasn’t been offered work.

“I would like to express my thanks for the support, both emotional and personally from subcontractors and business associates,” he said.

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