Province Necessitates Transparency Measure

Robert Thomas

Another hurdle has been cleared in the quest for transparency at City Hall, but the actions which necessitated it were enacted by the Province and not those at City Hall.

Executive Council was told by Finance Director Brian Acker that under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), which was signed by the provinces, all tenders must now be publicly available.

Acker said that with the proposed changes to the Tendering and Request For Proposals (RFP) the City would be compliant and “can now be provided to Council.”

Previously tendering and RFP results were not normally provided to Council. The reason Administration gave for the policy was that by not publicly releasing details it allowed the City to receive more favourable bids because potential bidders would not know previous results and bids.

“It’s unfortunate this has to happen in order to get this,” Councillor Brian Swanson told Executive Committee.

Coun Swanson opposed the now soon-to-be-changed purchasing policy because of Council's inability to get tendering and RFP details.

He requested some of the proposed new changes in purchasing by Administration be changed, singling out how a change order up to $150,000 could be done without Council approval.

Under present policy a department head may approve up to a $25,000 change order and the City Manager up to a $150,000 change order as long as it is within the project’s approved budget and is not controversial in nature.

“To me it should be a percentage,” he said, using the example of how a $300,000 contract could potentially have $150,000 added to it without Council approval.

Coun Swanson suggested a percentage based solution for change orders. He said it should be up to three percent for department managers and five percent for the City Manager.

A change order is usually where additional funds are approved on a tendered or RFP purchase brought about due to unforeseen circumstances and developments in a project. The Purchasing Policy seeks to define it as where has been added or deleted from an existing contract. An example might be a worn out valve on a water project which needs replacement but was not part of the original tender.

The revised Purchasing Policy would also grant the City the right to issue a Change Order to add, delete or revise an existing contract.

Councillor Scott McMann stated Council needed more details on tenders to better do their job.

“We don’t get any of the details we need,” Coun McMann stated.

He said he would like to see the number of bidders listed especially when there was only one bidder.

Another area he would like to see are details on how to determine the difference between lowest bidder versus best value.

Traditionally tenders were awarded based upon the lowest bid received to do the work. A more recent concept has been best value. Best value may entail accepting a higher bid but due to that bidder's expertise, components or qualifications they are better value for the higher cost.

City Engineer Josh Mickelborough told the Committee that RFPs were done through a selection committee. RFPs are used for consulting services and tenders are used for construction projects he said.

In the end revisions to the purchasing policy were referred back to Administration to return with options for change order limits, policy for determination of best values and listing the number of bidders and the amount of their bids.

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