PWGSC procurement reform baffling industry experts

The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) wants accountability from the federal government.

Two years in the making, a blueprint to be released shortly outlines a “stark contrast” with the feds approach to procurement changes for Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC).

Over 9,000 complaints via e-mail and phone last week may have led to the freeze in procurement reform announced by Michael M. Fortier, Minister, PWGSC.

The current Request for Standing Offers for Temporary Help Services will be revised, however, PWGSC spokesperson Pierre Manoni emphasized that no freeze has taken place.

“The important thing to understand is that the call for proposal for Temporary Help Services is being revised pending further consultations with the industry.” said Manoni. “Minister Fortier has confirmed that the department will continue to hold consultations with the major industry associations and the suppliers before proceeding with certain elements of the procurement reform.”

Issues that plague PWGSC policy change is nothing new — concerns were raised two years ago and steering committees were created.

“Industry leaders volunteered their time to help provide expertise and feedback on possible modifications to procurement,” said Keith Carter, CATA representative and steering committee member. “Steering committees conducted research and provided continual input.”

At issue for Carter is despite an 18 month participation by industry representatives, a $20 million contract was created with U.S.-based management consulting firm A.T Kearney.

During a June committee meeting Carter said he and fellow committee members were told that their recommendations would not be used, and that Kearney would replace them as counselor.

Committee members were given the structure of the methodology used, but not the actual report, which was deemed private information, according to Carter.

“There was no warning as to what the meeting was about,” he said. “I was completely floored that they had engaged A.T Kearney.”

Manoni would not comment on the Kearney contract.

The approaches presented during the Kearney announcement baffled John Reid, CATA president.

“In the briefing, some of the approaches were unworkable and there was a total disregard and disrespect for the work that had been done collaboratively between industry and government,” Reid said. “They were hit by concepts such as reverse auction. (Reverse auctioning) would be quite devastating to the industrial fabric of Canada.”

Reverse auctioning strips vendors of providing quality service or any other value added to the bid, said Reid. He fears that it will result in less competition and virtually the elimination of small to medium sized Canadian businesses.

U.S. companies would likely flood the market because vendors have to be a substantial-sized company to be a contender, said Reid.

“It’s a real lottery now. If you win, you stand a good chance of growing your company significantly being one of few vendors,” said Carter. “If you lose, you lose the opportunity to work for the government for a period of two years.

“In Ottawa, it’s really significant because a lot of SME’s do most of their business with the federal government.”

Reid is calling for a full freeze and investigation. However, even if an investigation takes place, Carter said damage has already been done.

“The announced procurement reforms have already had an effect,” he said. “Business is down right now and companies will be hesitant to do business.”

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