I am very concerned with what I have seen over the last several weeks related to the tender process at several municipalities.
I have always said that the rules, regulations, bylaws, and the Municipal Act are all we have, as the very foundation of government procurement.
These laws are fairly black and white and therefore, not open to interpretation from people who are not qualified to rewrite the rules of this time-tested process to fit their own agendas.
Either follow the rules or just throw out the entire rule book, but don’t try to make up new rules to fit into the real ones that already exist.
It is time for the entire construction industry to step up and challenge every tender and request for proposal (RFP) when they feel that the contractor was not treated fairly.
The problem is that most contractors know that if they complain they will be passed over on the next contract.
The truth is, if every contractor would bring forth these issues into the light, the municipalities would stop playing all the games and do the right thing, and follow the clear rules set out in the procurement process in the Municipal Act.
Enough is enough, and as long as the industry keeps quiet they will continue to be walked all over by the handful of municipalities that continue to invent a new rule book, which only serves a non-transparent outcome to the contractors.
I continue to get many calls every week from contractors to fight the good fight, but unless we all come together to put a stop to municipalities not being “fair, open and transparent” we can only win one battle at a time.
As you can see, I feel very passionate about this point.
I also want to make it abundantly clear that I am not talking about the majority of municipalities in Canada that do follow the process properly.
However, those repeat offenders who continue to scoff in the face of the rules that were put into place to create a level playing field must be challenged by everyone involved in the process, to achieve a fair outcome.
I know at times we feel like it is David vs. Goliath when challenging a municipality with endless taxpayer funds, as opposed to our own. But, when the law is on your side, the battle is worth the reward.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve attended a meeting with a municipality and it is the contractor and I, against an entire boardroom of staff.
How many times do we talk about “risk and reward” when it comes to bidding on contracts, so why don’t we take the same view when we defend the process, knowing what happened is not consistent with the law?
I applaud the contractors that make a stand for the sake of what the procurement process stands for. The more times this happens, the sooner the bad apples will stop twisting the rules and conform to the law, the way it was written.
From the first day I started Purchasing Consultants International Inc. I have always stood for doing the right thing. The rules are the rules and everyone must follow them.
Having said that, I have taken flak from many of my life long municipal procurement friends saying you are supposed to be “one of us” and take our side.
To that end, I say if you are consistent with your own bylaws I will take your side. On the other hand if you are off side I will fight for the contractor, and the process, to the very end.
I suggest we all follow the rules and jointly put a stop to these people who consider themselves above the law.
Stephen Bauld is Canada's leading expert on government procurement. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.