Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More renogate, an update

A follow-up here to yesterday's post. There was a committee hearing where Public Works officials appeared yesterday which should be addressed.

First of all, the big issue this week, as a reminder, is the situation pointed out in this report on the weekend. A change was made in the bid process on a $9 million Parliament Hill renovation contract which ended up working to the benefit of the smallest contractor in the process. That change happened one week before the bid closed. Here was the answer provided by the officials on the reason for the change:
Tom Ring, assistant deputy minister at the acquisitions branch of the department, said changes to criteria for contracts are a normal part of the contract process in exchanges with industry,

“We looked at the request from LM Sauve and found that it was reasonable, and in fact, we had made a similar change in the criteria for the southeast towers so there was no reason to not accept that request,” Mr. Ring said, in response to questions from Diane Bourgeois, public works critic for the Bloc Quebecois.

Mr. Ring said the changes were posted seven or eight days before the closing date and there were no subsequent questions or complaints.

“In fact, our view is if we had not made that change, we would have left ourselves subject to legal review from LM Sauve for making an unreasonable request and a more stringent requirement than was necessary,” said Mr. Ring, who appeared at the committee alongside Pierre-Marc Mongeau, assistant deputy minister at the parliamentary precinct branch; Robert Wright, director general of major Crown projects and Jacques Leclerc, senior director of the real property contracting directorate.
That cool, matter of fact response by the Public Works officials on why the change was made was a real contrast to how the other contractors bidding on the contract viewed the change:
"That amendment blindsided all the other pre-qualified general contractors, and it came out of nowhere," he said. "Who asked for it? Why was that amendment even created? Making a new amendment to benefit only one of the people who applied is pretty strange."
It was perfectly normal according to the officials yet it wasn't perceived that way. I assume these contractors have been around the block a few times?

It does seem strange that a contractor can make such a request for a rule change and it goes into effect one week before the bid closes. And further, that the government feels it'll be in for legal problems if they don't go along, when it's that late in the process.

Also of note yesterday, the Public Works officials testified that they have assessed emails, documents and all the other written records for evidence of any interactions in connection with the bidding process change with political personnel. None were found.

The hearings continue next week and the RCMP investigation continues. So there'll be more "Renogate" blogging in our future. The whole thing is too odd not to wonder about. How did that firm, said to be less qualified than the other bidders and the one who gave $140,000 to a Conservative-linked politico, end up winning that contract anyway? 

P.S. How can people not like "Renogate?" I don't get that at all. But for one letter in the word, we have renovate. Renogate/renovate, it's just perfection. (And just a label, folks, the details are what's important...)