Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Red flags everywhere on Parliament Hill reno proposal

Yet another access to information gem uncovered by Canadian Press. Finally, that is, after taking 14 months to be released! What they've turned up is a consulting report showing just how many red flags there were about the LM Sauve Parliament Hill construction bid. The LM Sauve bid was the lowest bid and also the winning one, one Sauve alleges he obtained as a result of paying a Conservative organizer. It came in noticeably lower than competing bids and was sent by Public Works to be reviewed by a consultant as a result of how it stood out. The disclosure of this report makes it all the more strange that after all the question marks it raised, the contract award nevertheless proceeded to LM Sauve. It also raises questions about why the Minister at the time, Michael Fortier, seemed to be detached on what seems to have been a major issue in his department.

Here is some of the red flag material that came up in the consultant's report:
"...whether the low bid reflects the total scope of the project."
Hanscomb found LM Sauve underestimated the cost of some parts of the job and overestimated others. Some of the construction company's estimates were half that of their competitors. Other estimates were more than twice as high.
Sounds like pretty fundamental stuff. Ultimately, Public Works went ahead with the contract award to Sauve after receiving some assurances but not likely enough:
West Block project director Ezio DiMillo said they took Sauve at his word that he could do the job at the price he quoted. The department didn't ask Sauve to show how he arrived at his numbers.

"We have no choice but to believe that the bid price they were carrying, that they were able to do the work for that price," DiMillo said in an interview.
So the Public Works people commissioned a report, saw its red flag results, questioned the contractor, decided to rely on the contractor's say-so and didn't see fit to raise it with the Minister? On a close to $10 million contract?
"I don't remember us ever having a discussion around a particular contract that was causing grief to the department around the Hill renovations," Fortier said.

"Not to say that the project itself wasn't an issue. It is, because it's huge. But there were no significant issues brought to my attention relating to one particular contract."
(link) It's good to be Minister I guess. The same way Christian Paradis can, unbelievably, go to a fundraiser and not ask any questions at all about who was hosting it, who would be there, etc.

Red flags everywhere and they still proceeded with this contract award. That is mighty high risk behaviour with the Parliament Hill renovations that just doesn't seem to add up.